Breaking up is hard to do, especially if you are anxious and uncomfortable with confrontation. You’ve decided it’s time to end your relationship with your therapist, but you have no idea where to start. Let’s walk through how to break up with your therapist.
Why are you ending things?
Before we begin, let’s make sure that cutting your therapist loose is the best decision. Make sure its because they did something wrong, not because you don’t think you need therapy. It’s ok to quit your therapist, but don’t quit therapy, find someone who you vibe with a little bit better, learn How to Pick the Best Therapist for you.
Also, if money is an issue, talk to your mental health professional to see if they offer sliding scale payments. Or maybe they can point you in the direction of someone who does.
Reasons it May be Time to Breakup:
Does your therapist cancel frequently at the last minute? Or maybe they show up late to sessions or end early. This is wasting your time and money. If this becomes a pattern start looking for another therapist.
It’s too difficult to schedule an appointment
Perhaps your therapist recommended weekly sessions, but he/she doesn’t let you book in advance; so you are always leaving messages and trying to coordinate schedules…this is a red flag. With scheduling apps, texting, emailing and cell phones it shouldn’t be difficult to book an appointment.
He or She makes you uncomfortable
If instead of feeling better after sessions you feel uncomfortable it may be time to move on. Therapy is all about feeling comfortable, it’s a space where you need to be vulnerable.
Lack of Trust
I had a psychologist tell me personal details about her clients, which is fine if they aren’t using names or identifying them. This
She told me where clients worked, crazy stories about them, and that I would see them in the waiting room on my way out. It became a gossip session, I mean what would she say about me? Her minor HIPPA violations were an immediate turnoff. I didn’t need a friend to gab with, I needed mental health help.
Distracted or not paying attention during your sessions
I broke up with a therapist who pretended to jot down session notes but was doing crossword puzzles during our sessions. I’d stop talking mid-sentence and he wouldn’t even notice.
You feel unheard or bullied
If your therapist is talking more than you or cutting you off frequently so they can talk, it may be an indication a switch is needed.
Therapists should guide the conversation and move you to have breakthroughs and epiphanies about your own choices. They shouldn’t make snarky comments or push you to do unconventional things. Yes, they should help you strive to get out of your comfort zone. But you should never leave feeling belittled or made fun of.
How Long Should I try out a Therapist
Personally, my rule of thumb is to give a new therapist 3-5 sessions. If you are new to therapy, you may feel uncomfortable with the idea of rambling on to someone you don’t know, so it is important to distinguish between the therapist and the work.
If you decide to break up after 3 or more sessions make sure you find another mental health professional better suited for your needs. It’s ok to quit a therapist, but please don’t quit therapy.
Breakup Language: What to say
Be your own hype person, give yourself a pep talk to prepare yourself for the breakup. Remember, you are doing this because you are putting your needs first, also, you hired them and you aren’t getting your money’s worth. I promise the anticipation of the break up is worse than actually doing it.
If you are nervous, go over the break-up monologue in your head a few times or write it down and read it over and over again until you feel comfortable.
I highly recommend talking in person, especially if you’ve been seeing them a while. Or over the phone if you are in a pinch. Please do not ghost your therapist. They may worry something is seriously wrong and they may reach out multiple times to check on you, which is counterproductive to what you want to accomplish. Also, therapists must understand why you left, its common courtesy.
Key Phrases to Start the Breakup:
- I’m going to take a break from therapy
- I appreciate your help, but I don’t think this is a great fit for me
- I want to try sessions with a therapist who specializes in _________
- I’m doing well and want to try taking a step back from therapy
- I don’t want to be in therapy anymore
Most therapists will respond professionally and tell you to reach out if you need anything in the future. And some may try and convince you that you need them. Again, you may need therapy, but make sure the therapist is a good fit for you. Don’t quit therapy just because of one bad therapist. It’s like dating, we all have that one ex that was a mess, but we didn’t quit dating, we just knew how to look for red flags with the next one. The same rules apply here.
Don’t feel bad
Don’t feel bad, if therapy teaches you anything its about self-care and putting yourself first. Make sure you continue self-care until you find your next therapist. A therapist might not be great for you, but they may be fantastic for their other clients. And professional therapist shouldn’t take a breakup personally.
Also, you’ve learned a lot from the experience and have probably grown a little as a person during the process.
Great post! Yes, we need to think of ourselves first and what makes us comfortable in situations. Thank you for sharing!
What a great post, and on an important topic I haven’t seen many people talking about. Overwhelmingly, studies show the most important factor in therapy progress is the client-counselor rapport. Sometimes it’s just not a good fit, and when it isn’t, clients should feel empowered to make a change. Thank you for posting this!
Great advice! And wow, you’re Psychologist was very unprofessional! They are supposed to keep things confidential!
I think you need to know about the honor code all therapists subscribe to. That will weed out the one’s that are in it for the money. It can be quite traumatic to leave one therapist whom you’ve gotten used to and then to find another especially if you have mental health issues.