“I’m not looking forward to sending that breakup text later,” I said to a friend last year as we strolled the sidewalks of Sunset. “Breakup text?” she replied, seemingly forgetting the lengthy chat we had just 10 minutes prior, about how I didn’t feel like I was clicking with my therapist. And then it dawned on her: “Oh yeah! The breakup text.”
Deciding how to break-up with your therapist feels like a similar journey to ending things with someone you’ve gone on five dates with—it’s not the end of the world, but you do owe them a thoughtful explanation. I’d only been (virtually) meeting with my therapist for six weeks, but when you’re shelling out money and opening up about innermost thoughts and experiences, you develop some kind of rapport. My therapist wasn’t a mean woman—we just didn’t click in the way that I needed to for this professional relationship to work out. I actually did let her convince me into sticking around for a couple additional sessions, but ultimately it just didn’t work out.
It’s not uncommon for people to disconnect with their therapist. If you don’t feel 100% about your situation, there’s no point in wasting anyone’s time. To help understand just how to cut ties the right way, I reached out to Alison LaSov, Licensed MFT and CEO of Advekit, a service that helps people find therapy at an affordable price.
Approaching How to Break-Up With Your Therapist
Just like any other breakup, if you’ve been seeing your therapist for more than a couple sessions, LaSov suggests having the conversation in person. Obviously if your sessions have been done virtually, then a virtual discussion is fine. While texting isn’t encouraged, it’s better than ghosting, which gives no one closure.
“Just like any relationship, you owe it to yourself to follow your intuition,” LaSov tells skyelyfe. “But it’s respectful to the other person to let them know how you’re feeling. Simply sharing that you don’t think it’s a fit is okay to say, and even more helpful if you can provide them with feedback.”
That said, “While it’s important to be open and honest with your therapist,” LaSav never encourages “anyone to be hurtful or aggressive in any type of correspondence.”
Even if you’ve decided to write your therapist off for good, it’s important to hear out their response.
“Perhaps your intuition is correct and either your treatment should be coming to an end or you haven’t found the right fit in a therapist and should switch,” LaSov says. “However, in many cases, people leave therapy thinking that the therapist is not helping when in fact it takes time to see the helpful impact of therapy.”
How Therapists Typically React to a Client Breakup
While a patient breakup may seem like a blow to the ego, therapists are professionals who can typically disconnect from the feeling of rejection based on a number of factors.
“They understand that therapy can be an emotional and intimate experience and people sometimes need to take a break, or they worry they’re not making enough progress,” LaSov explains. “There are also times when the patient doesn’t feel a connection with the therapist and that’s okay, too. The relationship between a therapist and patient is nuanced, and both parties need to feel comfortable in order for the treatment to be effective.”
If a therapist lashes out, that isn’t considered normal, but rather a red flag.
“If a therapist gets defensive or aggressive, this is an indicator that they take your feelings personally and allow their emotions to interfere with your treatment,” LaSov says.
Do Therapists Typically Try Convincing Patients to Stick Around?
There are many instances when a therapist-patient relationship has simply run its course. And to that point, LaSov says “a therapist should not try to convince someone to stay in therapy longer than is needed.”
But in the case of simply being over your therapist, LaSov says, “humans tend to avoid difficult conversations or emotional turmoil, so it’s common for people to want to stop therapy when their self-exploration makes them feel vulnerable. It’s the therapist’s job to help the patient navigate whether they’re ready to end their relationship, or if the patient is reacting with avoidance, which could mean that they’re actually making progress in their sessions.”
How Does a Patient Determine Whether to Give Their Therapist Another Try?
Ultimately, the patient knows what’s best for them and has to act based on their own needs.
“I always encourage people to listen to their feelings and to follow their intuition in these types of scenarios,” LaSov says. “It’s important to have open and honest conversations with your therapist about how you feel, even if you think it might hurt their feelings. Their job is to help you determine the best course of action for you.”
Ultimately, when determining how to break-up with your therapist, “taking note of how you feel is key,” LaSov explains. “Feeling comfortable enough to be vulnerable with your therapist is where you’ll start to see progress, but remember therapy doesn’t produce change after one session. It takes time.”
Speaking of therapy, HERE are six ways I clear my head when my mental health is in a bad place.