How to Break Up with Your Therapist, According to Therapists

Finding the right therapist is essential to making therapy work for you. So how do you end it with one when things aren't working out? We got tips from the pros

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When it comes to mental health, seeking help has never been more widely accepted. Zendaya calls therapy a "beautiful thing," and Selena Gomez has said it's "one of the most important things."

Finding the right therapist is one of the key components to making therapy work for you, which means that, if things aren't "clicking," you may find yourself faced with the dreaded "therapist breakup" —whether that's after years or just a few sessions together.

Due to the personal nature of the client-therapist dynamic, trying to end the relationship can be awkward and even painful. To help navigate this tricky time, we spoke to three therapists to find out how they recommend making a successful break.


Determine If It's Time to Move On — or Just Work Through

Therapy isn't always easy, so before calling it quits, first make sure that the discomfort you're feeling isn't just you adjusting to the practice as opposed to a personality mismatch with the therapist.

"I always say to try a therapist for two or three sessions to give the relationship a fair shot," says Detroit-based therapist Kelly Houseman, LPC. "It does take time to get comfortable with telling a stranger your deepest, darkest thoughts."

And if you've worked together awhile and you're feeling stuck, you can try to communicate that to them.

"Know that feelings of stagnancy are normal and are to be expected," says Atlanta-based therapist Lauren Johnson, LPC. "I would encourage you to address it with your therapist directly, acknowledge how you feel and hopefully you can create a game plan together to get back on track."

That said, you don't want to ignore the signs if you're no longer finding your sessions beneficial. Houseman, Johnson, and Tampa-based therapist Mellisa Gooden, M.A., LMFT, LMHC, outline the signs it's time to move on.

  • Your therapist is unprofessional. If they're often late, checking their phone during sessions, or canceling often, they aren't putting you first. "The client-therapist relationship is a professional relationship," says Gooden, who is part of the nonprofit DRK Beauty Healing, a network of clinicians delivering free therapy and wellness resources to women and non-binary people of color in America. "At the end of the day you are paying for therapy and should receive quality care and service."
  • They're unqualified. Every therapist is different, and has different levels of experience and training. "Sometimes during the therapy process, new issues come to the surface while addressing what originally brought you to therapy. Your current therapist may not be equipped to help you deal with this new issue," explains Gooden. In situations like this one, you should feel empowered to seek out someone new, and can even ask your therapist to refer you.
  • They don't respect your boundaries. "Therapists are people too, and as such, issues with loose or violating boundaries can occur," says Gooden. "If your therapist becomes too personal—as in using your sessions to talk about themselves or pushing their personal views on you, then it's time to get a new therapist." According to Houseman, it's not as uncommon as you might think. "Believe it or not, I've had clients tell me about former therapists who have discussed their own intimate personal problems and taken over their sessions," she says. If things ever cross a line or feel overtly inappropriate, you can also report them to your state's licensing board.
  • You've made great progress—or none at all. The point of therapy is to heal, after all. And it's always there if you need to come back to it later."If your initial complaint that brought you to therapy is no longer significant, then it might mean it is time to end the therapy relationship," says Gooden. "Likewise, if you have been working with a therapist for a period of time in which you haven't seen any signs of improvement despite your effort in and outside of sessions, then it is time to end." (For help finding a new therapist, use the tips below.)
  • You simply don't feel comfortable. Your therapist should be a person you can be open with."It might be time to move on from your therapist if you don't feel comfortable sharing certain aspects of your life with them because you are afraid of judgement or criticism," says Johnson. "Feeling safe with your therapist is extremely important, and if you don't feel that you have that safety then it is definitely time to move on."

Once You're Sure, Break It Off.

If you've only had a few sessions, it's okay to send a text or email. "Therapists know that every client we see won't be a good fit, so we anticipate that we won't retain everyone," says Johnson. Regardless of the medium, one thing is key: "Please, don't ghost your therapist!"

For longer-term relationships, it can be helpful—or even cathartic—to let them know in person. "In an ideal world, ending the relationship would be discussed in session, either in person or virtually, so that everyone is on the same page and any concerns or issues can be addressed together," says Johnson. In some cases, you might find "your concerns about the relationship can be effectively addressed and you find that you don't need to move on; that's why having the discussion in session is in your best interest."

You may even have an agreement in place for this very occurrence. "It is common practice for clients and therapists to sign what's called a client-therapist agreement," says Gooden. "If your therapist has indicated that written notice via text or email is appropriate for ending the relationship, then you can do so." If not, the therapists agree an in-person discussion or phone call is still the best route.

And even if you're sure you're ready to break it off, you may fine one final session valuable. "A wrap-up session is great so we can talk about how far you have come and make a plan for you to tackle life on your own," says Houseman.

However, it varies from person to person, and is definitely not mandatory, she adds: "Many people feel awkward with goodbyes and there is no hard rule saying you must have a final termination session if you're not feeling it."


When You're Ready, Look for Someone New.

If and when you're ready to look for a new therapist, you can check out Psychology Today's database of mental health professionals. "You will see a photo of them, get information about their background and areas of expertise," explains Johnson. "You can also search based on certain criteria like whether or not they accept your insurance, so you can better narrow your search."

Friends and family can also be a great resource if you're comfortable talking about your search. "It may be hard to find reviews because therapy is confidential, but you can definitely receive a solid word-of-mouth recommendation," says Gooden.

Many therapists also have active social media presences, which can give you a sense of their personalities. "Believe it or not, social media is where I get many clients from," says Houseman. "You can learn a lot about a therapist and their style—along with valuable information—on Instagram or even TikTok."

Finally, use your previous experience in therapy to inform your current one. "Most therapists will offer a free phone consultation," Gooden points out. "Before beginning with a therapist, find out the following: What is their therapy orientation? Do they specialize in the area that you're seeking help in? Also, if there was something about your previous therapist that you didn't particularly like, be sure to address that with the new therapist as you interview them during the consultation."

Remember, don't get discouraged if one or even multiple therapists aren't the right fit. "One of the mistakes that people often make on their wellness journey is the assumption that all therapists are the same, or 'If I've tried with one therapist and it was unsuccessful then therapy doesn't work for me'," says Gooden. Houseman agrees: "Finding a good therapist is in many ways like dating, and sometimes you must go through several to find your match."

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