How to Break Up with Your Therapist

Thursday, May 9

Working with a therapist can provide you with valuable help for mental health issues. What if this therapeutic relationship just isn’t working out, though? It may seem uncomfortable or even awkward to admit that you want to break up with your therapist. But this move can end up being better for your mental health and well-being. 

Staying with a therapist who isn’t really helping you — or one who doesn’t respect you — can make it much harder to heal. It’s okay to stop seeing your current therapist. But how do you know if this is the right decision for you? We’ll go over signs that show you when it’s time for a breakup and how to approach this situation.

When is it time to break up with a therapist? 8 signs 

You may be considering leaving your therapist for various valid reasons. But knowing if you should go through with this move can be difficult to determine. 

You might not be sure if it’s a helpful decision. Or you may worry about your therapist’s feelings. In the following sections, we’ll explore several signs that indicate it’s the right time to move on from your therapist. 

1. You see red flags

Is something about your therapist or therapy sessions making you feel uneasy? Mental health professionals, such as counselors and therapists, have a code of ethics to follow. Some behaviors or actions might cross a line – which means it’s time to break up. 

What red flags should you watch for? These are some that you should be aware of:

  • Exhibiting unprofessional behaviors, such as speaking too informally or dressing inappropriately
  • Asking for favors or engaging in other non-therapeutic behaviors 
  • Sharing your confidential information 
  • Showing a lack of empathy and compassion
  • Judging or criticize you

2. Your symptoms have worsened 

Setbacks are a typical part of the therapeutic experience. Your symptoms might return. Or you might repeat maladaptive behavioral patterns. These situations can be expected as you go through therapy. 

What if your symptoms seem worse, even if you’re putting in a lot of effort to make changes? If your symptoms aren’t improving — and you’re not making any progress — it may be time to find a therapist who’s a better fit for you. 

3. You feel like you can’t be honest 

The therapeutic alliance between you and your therapist is a vital part of your sessions. And this relationship is based on trust and honesty. In order to work through issues and heal, you’ll need to open up to your therapist.  

What if you’re not comfortable enough to be honest with them? What if you don’t feel at ease letting your guard down and being vulnerable during your sessions? Therapy may not be effective for you. In this case, finding a therapist you can be honest and open with may serve you better. 

4. Something just doesn’t feel right 

Sometimes, you might not really know exactly what makes you feel uncomfortable during therapy. Something might feel “off” in your relationship with your therapist. Keep in mind that therapy sessions can have moments that may be uncomfortable, such as talking about past trauma. 

So, you might not feel at ease all the time. But you should be comfortable enough with your therapist to talk to them and ask questions. If something about your therapist is holding you back from making progress, it’s a sign that it’s time to look for a new one. 

5. You start to have feelings for each other

Awkward situations like this can come up in therapy. You might be attracted to your therapist or develop feelings for them. Don’t be embarrassed or ashamed — experts say experiencing some kind of attraction toward your therapist is normal. 

Should you say something? You may choose to, so your therapist can help you determine where these feelings are coming from. But keep professional ethics in mind: Your therapist should not develop a personal relationship with you. 

What if talking about your feelings interferes with your progress? In this case, looking for a new therapist may be best. This also goes for situations where your therapist has feelings for you.

6. The therapist’s specialization does not align with your needs

Your therapist should be able to help you achieve your goals and address your needs. Depending on why you’re seeking therapy, you may need a therapist with a certain specialization. For example, if you struggle with anxiety and panic attacks, a therapist who specializes in anxiety disorders would be beneficial.

If your current therapist isn’t aligned with your mental health needs, this mismatch can impact the therapy’s effectiveness. When choosing a therapist, consider your goals and mental health concerns carefully. For example, choose a therapist who focuses on trauma-informed therapy if your goal is to uncover unrecognized trauma. Or find a therapist who specializes in bereavement or grief therapy if you’re trying to heal after losing a loved one. 

Worried that your current therapist doesn’t offer the help you need? Keep in mind that switching therapists or even stopping therapy is often part of the process.

7. You reach your therapy goals

Breaking up with a therapist isn’t always due to a negative experience. Sometimes, ending this relationship is due to reaching your therapy goals. If you feel you’ve accomplished all you’ve set out to do in therapy, it may be time to end sessions with your current therapist. 

A total breakup might not be necessary in this case. Even if therapy is ending now, you may choose to go back again if you need support later. If you had a positive experience with your therapist, ask about the possibility of returning if new concerns arise in your life.  

8. External factors

Breaking up with your therapist may not have anything to do with your therapeutic relationship or therapy goals. Outside factors in your life might not give you much choice in the matter. Examples of these include:

  • Moving far away from their office 
  • Time constraints or scheduling conflicts 
  • Financial strain 
  • Therapist’s office changes to a new location that you can’t get to

When an external factor, like moving, forces you to move on from a good therapist, this can be incredibly difficult — especially if you have a strong therapeutic relationship. 

How to approach breaking up with your therapist

No break-up conversation is comfortable, and while it may be tempting to simply stop scheduling sessions with your therapist with no explanation, try not to do that. 

Therapists are professionals who want the best for clients. If it’s just not working out for you, they’ll understand, and may even help you connect with a new therapist. Here’s how to take the best approach to breaking up with your therapist:

1. Consider your reasons for wanting to break up

Before doing anything, think about why you want to break up with your therapist. Knowing your reason helps you communicate it effectively to your therapist. 

Depending on your situation, your therapist might be able to address your concerns or work through any issues. Giving them a chance to do so might even lead to a decision to continue doing therapy sessions with them. 

2. Schedule a session to talk about it

Don’t leave without saying goodbye. Also, avoid breaking up with your therapist in an impersonal way, such as through email or text. Set up a last session with your therapist — either face-to-face in person or via video if you do online therapy. 

During this session, talk to your therapist about why you’ve decided to end therapy with them. This provides a sense of closure for both of you. It also allows you to discuss everything thoroughly before parting ways. 

3. Be honest but respectful 

When you talk to your therapist about why you want to end therapy, be honest. This may not be easy, depending on your reasons, but it’s important. Being respectful and thoughtful also matters. 

Your relationship with your therapist is a professional one. Even if you’re upset with them, avoid showing disrespect or being unkind. Remember that this is a learning experience for your therapist. Your honest feedback may be valuable to them and help them improve. 

You can be honest and respectful with your therapist by:

  • Sticking to the facts 
  • Being straightforward and clear about your reasons for making this decision
  • Thanking them for the time they’ve spent helping you during your sessions

4. Discuss the next steps 

Once you’ve talked about your reasons for leaving your therapist, it’s time to focus on your next steps. This process involves reviewing your progress with your therapist to see how far you’ve come and whether or not you’ve met any goals. 

Your next steps also include discussing strategies for maintaining your mental health. You can also address any remaining concerns you have. 

Ask your therapist about the possibility of returning to therapy at some point in the future. Or ask about obtaining referrals for other mental health professionals if you decide that you need further support down the line.   

5. Prepare to transition to a new therapist

Planning to continue your therapy journey? Then, it’s important to find a licensed therapist who is the right fit for you. 

Make a list of what you liked and didn’t like about your previous therapist. This helps you narrow down what you’re looking for in a new therapist. Once you know what you want, SonderMind can help connect you with a licensed professional based on your preferences within 48 hours. 

6. Focus on self-care

Breaking up with your therapist can be an emotional experience. But remember that it’s also an opportunity to find a therapist who’s a better fit for you. 

In the meantime, prioritize your mental health. Focus on self-care and practice adaptive coping mechanisms, such as journaling, exercise, quality time with loved ones, or meditation. 

How do you find a new therapist?

Breaking up with your therapist doesn’t necessarily mean the end of therapy for you. In fact, therapy is an ongoing process for a lot of people. But how should you go about finding a new therapist? Try the following:

  • Use SonderMind to find your next therapist.
  • Research therapists who offer the right specialties. 
  • Ask what to expect from therapy sessions, such as homework.
  • Prepare for your initial session, such as thinking about your therapy goals.

Find the right therapist with SonderMind

The time and effort you’ve spent building a relationship with your current therapist can make it hard to break up. But if there are signs that it’s the right decision, it’s ok to do so. 

Use the guidance we’ve provided to go through this process with your provider and let SonderMind connect you with a new therapist who better aligns with your needs and therapy goals. 

Get guidance throughout your mental health journey.

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