How to Break Up With Your Therapist Great Lakes Psychology Group

How to Break Up With Your Therapist

how to break up with your therapist

Wondering how to break up with your therapist?

It’s important that you like your therapist. You should feel like you and your therapist are on the same page about your goals, that they can help you achieve your goals, and that there are mutual positive feelings between you and your therapist.

In fact, the “therapeutic alliance,” as it’s referred to in the mental health field, has been shown to be even more important for patient outcomes than the particular treatment method the therapist uses.

So if it’s just not working out with your therapist, how do you tell them that you’d like to go your separate ways? The thought of doing so may cause some anxiety, and you might be tempted to “ghost” your therapist (keep canceling on them, or just not show up to your appointments and ignore them when they try to contact you). Or you might be upfront about wanting to end but lie about the true reason to save your therapist from hurt feelings. But neither of these options allow you to grow or give you closure. 

Here are 3 tips for how to break up with your therapist:

1. Identify what you need

If you find yourself dreading therapy, ask yourself whether it’s because you’re not jiving with your therapist or because of another reason. For example, you might become overwhelmed by the things you are confronting in therapy, or perhaps feel ashamed because you haven’t been totally honest with your therapist. 

If that’s the case, remember that the more honest you are with your therapist, the better your outcomes will be. Tell your therapist if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Tell them if you haven’t been totally honest with them. Your therapist should meet your honesty with support and non-judgment. Telling the truth may improve your connection and sense of safety with your therapist.

On the other hand, if you decide that your reluctance about therapy is more an issue of fit between you and your therapist, it’s okay to be honest about that, too. 

2. Use “I” statements

“I” statements are an effective communication tool in all kinds of contexts, not just in therapy. Here’s how it works: explain what happens, how it makes you feel, and what you need instead.

When [blank], I feel [blank], and I need [blank]. 

For example, “when you cancel last minute, I feel frustrated and unimportant, and I need a reliable therapist.”

It may feel intimidating to be this straightforward with your therapist, but it’s important for a couple of reasons. For one, it allows you to practice assertiveness and boundary setting. It allows you to identify what you need and then make the necessary changes when your needs aren’t being met. Additionally, offering your therapist feedback about why you’re leaving will hopefully help them grow and avoid making the same mistakes again.

3. Use self-compassion

If you notice that the idea of being honest and assertive brings up feelings of guilt or shame, pay attention to that. Where is that coming from? Why is it so tempting to avoid this conversation altogether and disappear from therapy without a word?

Setting clear boundaries is important for your own self-care. Although being direct may make you feel anxious, it’s important to have self-compassion when hard feelings come up. Affirm yourself for knowing what you need. Remind yourself that you’re not doing anything wrong by identifying your needs and communicating them clearly.

Finding a better fit therapist

Again, it’s really important that you feel good about your therapist. There will be a lot of variability from one therapist to the next in terms of their personality and therapeutic style. So if it doesn’t work out with one therapist, be cautious about taking this to mean that therapy just isn’t for you

When you talk to your therapist about ending, consider asking them for a referral to another therapist. Alternatively, begin the search for another therapist with the help of a for the best-fit therapist for you.