How to Break Up With Your Therapist

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Breakups are tough. We may tend to associate them with friends or romantic partners, but there are certainly other relationship endings that don’t get discussed as frequently and can be just as tricky to navigate. That includes ending a relationship with your therapist.

When is it time to break up with a therapist?

There are many reasons you may find yourself feeling ready to end a therapeutic relationship, including the following:

  1. You feel as though you have met your therapy goals and do not need therapy anymore.
  2. You don’t feel like you’re making progress towards your therapeutic goals with that particular therapist and they are not receptive to your feedback about your therapy sessions.
  3. You feel as though your therapist is not sensitive to your needs, identities, and/or what you bring to sessions.
  4. You do not trust your therapist and don’t feel as though you can be fully honest with them about how you are doing, what you are feeling, and/or what you are looking for.
  5. You and your therapist are not on the same page about why you are in therapy, what your treatment goals are, and/or what approach to therapy you are looking for.
  6. You cannot afford your therapist’s fees.
  7. You are moving out of state for school/work/any other reason.
  8. Your therapist is behaving unethically or inappropriately.
  9. You just don’t like your therapist.

how to break up with your therapist

If you’re considering terminating therapy, it is important to ask yourself a few questions before making a decision:

  • “Why do I want to leave?”
    • If any of the reasons listed above speak to you, expand on those by thinking about what isn’t clicking.
      • What are your therapy goals that aren’t being met? What is it that your therapist is doing that makes you feel uncomfortable or makes sessions unproductive? How has your therapist responded to feedback in the past? What tools have you learned from therapy that are helping you cope and thrive in your daily life?
    • Writing out your answer to this question may be helpful! Having these things in writing is also a good way to help guide a conversation about ending services should you decide to have it.
  • “Can the relationship be repaired?”
    • Therapy is a vulnerable space, and you should feel safe in that space. It is also a great place to practice hard things, and as mental health professionals, therapists are trained to receive feedback and adapt to their clients’ needs. If there are specific things that are not working about your therapy, there may be opportunities to improve on them rather than ending services. If you have specific needs that are not being met in therapy, your therapist wants to know that so that they can better serve you. You may be surprised at how wonderful it can feel to advocate for yourself and have those needs respected by a therapist!
    • If after bringing up your thoughts about therapy, that feedback is not taken seriously by your therapist or you feel that your boundaries have been crossed, that is a clear sign that it’s time to move on.

How to have the conversation:

Okay so you’ve thought about it, and you’re ready to leave your therapist. Here are some things to keep in mind:

If at all possible, don’t ghost them.

  • Maybe your instinct is to cut off communication with your therapist without an explanation, or just to send a brief email stating that you would not like to continue services. If this sounds like you, ask yourself:
    • Does this instinct echo other patterns of avoidance in your life?
    • Could this be an opportunity to safely face the discomfort of confrontation instead?
  • For people who are generally avoidant in relationships or avoid tough conversations, ghosting a therapist may come easily. If this sounds like you, think about challenging this pattern by having a conversation in person or via telehealth directly about why you are leaving.
  • Unlike other settings, therapy is a space where you are encouraged to go outside your comfort zone to communicate how you are feeling. If you find yourself avoiding the breakup conversation, ask yourself why. If you are worried about your therapist’s reaction or hurting their feelings, remember that they are trained for this! They will not be mad at you.
  • The goal of therapy is not necessarily to be comfortable all the time. Difficult conversations and advocating for yourself can be a catalyst for emotional growth.

If comfortable, tell your therapist in-person or at a telehealth session.

  • For therapists who you have only seen a few times, an email is appropriate. But if you’ve been seeing a therapist for a while, chances are they may ask for a termination session, or one more session post “break-up” to wrap up loose ends and provide a place for you to reflect on the work you have done together.
  • You can also tell your therapist via email that you have decided to stop seeing them and that the next session will be your last. That way, they know ahead of time and can plan for the last session and make room for you to give feedback.
  • Having a termination session with a therapist allows you the space to share your thoughts about the therapy and allows the therapist to have a sense of why you are leaving which will help them develop and improve their own practice. Therapists are trained for this. Your well-being is their priority, and therapists value feedback in order to be better providers.
  • You don’t NEED to have a termination session. That being said, if anxiety around hurting your therapist’s feelings is what is holding you back from doing so, I’d encourage you to be brave and do that session.

You are in charge of how much you say.

  • At the end of the day, you are in the driver’s seat. Trust your gut and do what feels safe to you in the moment.
  • If you feel unsafe, you do not need to tell your therapist why you are leaving. If there is any fear of safety, either physical or emotional, you do not need to tell your therapist in-person or in detail about why you are leaving. If you feel as though your therapist has made an ethical violation, you can also make an anonymous report through the governing board of their licensure (LICSW, LPCC, LMFT, etc.)
  • If you can’t afford services, you can inquire with your therapist about whether they offer sliding scale fees. If not, you can ask them for referrals in the area that do.
  • If you are moving out of state, check with your therapist to see if they are dually licensed in the state you are moving to. If not, ask for referrals for therapists in your new area

Things to keep in mind:

  • There are SO many different kinds of therapy, and unless you get really lucky, you might not find the perfect fit on your first try. It can be a lot of work to find a therapist and effective treatment style for you, but there are location-specific resources out there to help tailor your search to providers who can fit your needs.
  • Therapists should not try to change your mind or get defensive if you tell them you would like to end services. It is natural for them to ask questions, but they should not be trying to convince you to stay. If they do, this is further evidence that they are not the right fit.
  • Trust your gut. Only you know whether it is time to end the relationship and whether that therapy is right for you. Instincts are powerful.

You’ve got this! Therapy can be a beautiful experience, and by trusting your gut with a provider, you can direct your therapy path into the right place for you.

Blog written by Client Care Coordinator Ellie Struewing. 

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