How to Break Up with My Therapist

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December 4, 2019
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Seeing a therapist can be beneficial in many ways; when you have a trusted relationship with a mental health professional, it can help you to feel as if you have a safe place to discuss stressful, embarrassing, or confusing things going on in your life and can help you to relieve stress and have a new outlook on life. When seeking a therapist, it is important that you find someone that you can trust; just because a person has training and a degree in helping others does not mean that every therapist will be a good fit for you and your needs! It’s not just about the therapist’s expertise and skill level.

Finding a therapist is similar to finding a romantic partner; there needs to be a sense of commonality, a sense that the other person “gets” you, so that you can work with them to develop enough trust to be vulnerable with them.  Working through personal and mental health issues is something that can be very difficult, so having trust and feeling supported is paramount.

 What happens if you begin seeing a therapist and realize that you don’t “click” enough to really dig deep? This is bound to happen! Just like in dating scenarios, there are lots of different options for a therapist and not all of them will be a fit. This is generally easier to handle at the beginning of a therapeutic relationship, as there has not been a lot of time (and money) invested in the relationship yet. In addition to this, therapists are supposed to work to determine if they are the right fit for your needs and to encourage you to make the same decision when first beginning a relationship with them. But, for people who struggle with expressing their thoughts and feelings, it can be hard to initiate a therapy “break up”, no matter how long the relationship has been going on.

While there are a lot of similarities between finding a therapist and finding a romantic partner, something that is different is the element of power that is inherently involved in the therapist-client relationship. Because a therapist has a certain amount of expertise and knowledge, a client can feel obligated to maintain the relationship for a multitude of reasons. Therapists are trained to understand this and are supposed to frequently check in with their clients to assess their feelings of connectedness and interest in continuing to work together but may not always notice when a client is feeling disconnected or thinking about ending treatment.

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So, if you’re feeling like you do not have the right therapeutic fit or if you feel like you’ve gotten all you need out of therapy, there are lots of ways to communicate this with a therapist. The first thing you should know is that therapists are trained to have tough skin regarding clients leaving treatment; a good therapist will not take it personal if their treatment is not working or if you feel like you’ve gotten all you can out of the relationship. Being assertive and sharing your feelings is a great way to practice great communication skills and therapists will be appreciative of your ability to communicate your wants or needs. A clear “I” statement is always a great way to communicate with anyone, let alone your therapist. Something like, “I am not sure I am making the progress I want in therapy” or “I am feeling like I may need to find a better fit”. While these statements could feel like they could hurt someone’s feelings, a good therapist will be able to hear these things and, without judgment, accept your feelings and help you find the right outcome that will ultimately get you the help that you need.

Dr. Shannon McHugh is a Licensed Clinical and Forensic Psychologist in Los Angeles, California. She specializes in assessment and treatment of children, adolescents, and adults who have developmental and social delays, behavioral difficulties, and those who have experienced traumatic events