Whether you made the decision fairly quickly or you’d been mulling it over for quite some time, you took initiative and decided to go to therapy. It wasn’t an easy process; it involved a boatload of research to find the right therapist and then overcoming your nerves on the day of your first appointment.
But after a few meetings with your new mental health provider, things . . . don’t feel right. Is this how therapy is supposed to feel? This person is a licensed professional after all, so they must know what they’re doing. Now that you’ve found somebody, you’ve just got to stick through it . . . right?
The short answer is no. Just as with any medical professional, some individuals are more experienced than others. And just as in any other relationship, sometimes it takes a while to find the right fit.
Although everyone has their own unique therapy experience, I checked in with experts to uncover a few telltale signs that it’s time to rethink your connection to your current therapist.
How to know if it’s time to break up with your therapist
One such indication is that your therapist is talking too much about him or herself. “Therapists are taught to disclose information about themselves only when it feels relevant to your wellbeing,” said Emma Donovan, a therapist for college students and young professionals in St. Louis. “While some self-disclosure is helpful, your sessions should be primarily about you.”
Another reason to reconsider your therapist is if you feel judged. “Feeling judged keeps you from being able to be yourself, which is necessary for healing and growth,” Donovan pointed out. Sol Rapoport, a therapist in California, added that it’s not a good sign when “your therapist makes their personal opinion on your life clear to you, even if you didn’t ask for it.”
Of course, these aren’t the only signals that it’s time to move on. Your reason for wanting to part company may be entirely different.
How to have “the conversation”
But once you’ve decided it’s time to break up with your therapist, it can be challenging to know how to do so tactfully. Admittedly, the situation is a bit . . . awkward.
Donovan suggested that you start by making your feelings known. “If any of these signs show up, the only one who can speak up for them is you,” she said. “Compassionately let your therapist know your observations and how you are feeling, and see how they respond.”
Rapoport shared a similar sentiment. “Chances are they’ll respond with gratitude that you spoke up, and will do their best to accommodate what you need,” she said. “If they respond with defensiveness, they’ve just validated your decision to look elsewhere for therapy.”
If that’s the case, it’s OK to move on. But instead of skipping your next appointment, it’s a good plan to inform your therapist that you’ve decided not to continue your sessions. As Psychology Today suggests, you can use phrases like “I think I don’t need to come in anymore” or “I think I’ve done all the work I can do here” to let your therapist know your intention.
And you don’t have to do it face to face. “If you don’t feel like you can discuss it in person, send a brief email or message to them to let them know,” Rapoport noted. “It can be as short as ‘I wanted to let you know I’ve decided not to move forward with therapy at this time, thank you.'”
Remember: Your therapist is there to help you, and if you’re not getting the assistance you need, it’s perfectly acceptable to part ways. Don’t be discouraged that it didn’t work out; you will find the right therapist for you.