How to Break Up with Your Therapist
It’s often said that “breaking up is hard to do.” And for good reason. When we connect with someone—really connect with someone and show them our truest selves—it can be hard to break ties even when we know we need to do so. And you know what? That old adage is just as true when it comes to a therapist as it is with a significant other.
Asking for help is a brave accomplishment. But sometimes, for any number of reasons, it may be time to break up with your therapist. Perhaps you’ve accomplished the goal you initially sought help for. Maybe you don’t feel supported, or don’t feel like your therapist is really listening to you. Maybe you have different spiritual beliefs than your therapist, or just haven’t felt comfortable enough to really open up and talk about your issues. Whatever the case, whether your consider your therapy to have been successful or not, you are eventually going to have to have the talk. Yep, the break-up talk.
So how can you best part ways? Follow these tips:
1. Make the decision. Don’t be wishy-washy. If therapy isn’t working, whatever the reason may be, make a decision to end treatment. Don’t try to go back-and-forth or tell yourself, “Just one more week…” While you can try to redirect treatment by bringing up your concerns directly to your therapist, if it isn’t working, it isn’t working. So if your goals aren’t being met, make a decision to leave and stick with it.
2. Don’t be passive-aggressive. Don’t just stop showing up — or just not talk during your regular appointment in hopes that they will send you packing instead. These behaviors can raise a red flag with your therapist and make them think something has gone seriously awry. Instead, be upfront. Say that you think it’s time to end therapy. I know, I know—easier said than done! But have courage. If nothing else, your therapist is trained to manage stressful conversations. He or she will help you out.
3. Have your back-up in place. Jonathan Alpert, a Manhattan-based psychotherapist and author of BE FEARLESS: HOW TO CHANGE YOUR LIFE IN 28 DAYS, says sometimes a therapist/patient relationship just isn’t a good match. In an opinion piece he penned for the New York Times, he wrote, “[New patients] tell me how former therapists sat, listened, nodded and offered little or no advice, for weeks, months, sometimes years. A patient recently told me that, after seeing her therapist for several years, she asked if he had any advice for her. The therapist said, ‘See you next week.'” That’s not the kind of relationship that is going to help you accomplish your therapy goals. So if you aren’t getting what you need from your current therapist, find a new one. “The new therapist can help you with the transition,” says Alpert.
4. Be grateful. Maybe the therapeutic relationship didn’t work out—but your therapist did try to help you. Be mindful of that—and thankful. Or perhaps you’ve met your therapeutic goals—you’ve learned how to better manage your anxiety or gotten help with your depression. Be grateful that your time in therapy worked out for you—and don’t be afraid to let people know. Your gratitude can help lessen the stigma of mental health conditions, and perhaps even inspire someone else to seek needed treatment.
5. Remember it IS about you. That old line, “It’s not you, it’s me,” is relevant here. Therapy is supposed to be about you! While it’s natural to develop a strong rapport, or even a form of intimacy, with someone you’ve poured your heart out to, it’s not your job to take care of your therapist or worry about them feeling rejected. If the relationship isn’t working, it’s time to move on. Simply say so—and thank them for their time and efforts.
Our articles are for informational purposes only and are reviewed by our Medical Information team, which includes PharmDs, MDs, and PhDs. Do not make any changes to your current medications or dosing without consulting your healthcare provider.
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