Signs It’s Time to Break Up With Your Therapist
Sometimes it’s hard to know when it’s no longer a good fit with your therapist and decide to end things. Often times it’s not clear what progress or success look like. And because the nature of therapy is that it can be an uncomfortable process at times, it’s difficult to know whether what you’re feeling is simply discomfort with the process or an indication that it’s time to move on. Especially for people pleasers, because we tend to internalize (keep feelings in and directed at oneself) we might be afraid to speak up or even consider that it’s about the relationship rather than our own stuff.
Here are some signs that it might be that time, and how to navigate the situation.
- You don’t feel like they get you. If you don’t feel heard and understand by your therapist you’re probably not going to feel comfortable being vulnerable. The trust and rapport you have with your therapist is what creates the foundation of a safe space, and what makes progress in therapy possible.
- You’ve outgrown the relationship. Maybe you feel like you’ve gotten all you can from this person, and you no longer benefit from their style or approach. One way to know if this is the case is you find that you know exactly what they’re going to say or offer in response to what you bring to session. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and it might mean you’re ready for a different perspective. The key is to ask yourself whether you’re still growing and progressing.
- You don’t feel like they’re sensitive to your cultural, racial, sexual, or gender identity. A quality therapist sees you by understanding the intersections of your identity and their impact on your mental and emotional health. If they miss these important parts of your experience, you might not be in the right therapeutic relationship.
- You’ve made significant progress or met your intentions for therapy. This one might be obvious, but it’s common to feel unclear about what progress/success actually looks like so you stay longer than you might need to. We often start therapy with certain goals in mind and then find through the process we have new or different goals than we initially had. I encourage you to discuss with your therapist how you’ll know that you’ve made enough progress to complete your time together.
- You don’t feel comfortable with them. If you feel uncomfortable with something your therapist has said or done, I encourage you to bring it up with them. By communicating it, you get an opportunity to give feedback, ask for what you need, set a boundary, and clear it up. A quality therapist will listen and respect your feelings and needs. It can actually be an opportunity for growth and healing. This does not pertain to any interaction in which you feel your boundaries have been crossed or violated. If your therapist has violated a boundary by behaving inappropriately, such as crossing physical lines without consent, engaging with you outside of the therapeutic relationship romantically or platonically, or breaching confidentiality, this is all unethical behavior that should be reported to their licensing board.
Signs that don’t necessarily mean it’s time to end therapy.
- You don’t know what to talk about. Not having much to talk about can mean two things: either you’ve made significant progress on your goals and you’re ready to end or you’re there’s something deeper going on. Notice whether you feel a sense of completion or a sense of uncertainty. If it’s time to end, there won’t be much to talk about because your issues have resolved and you feel complete. If it’s the latter, you might not know how to talk about what you’re feeling, and you may need some guidance and support. Not knowing what to talk about can sometimes indicate a deepening of the therapeutic process. The work is no longer about the surface issues in your life that initially brought you to therapy, but rather about how you show up in the world and relationships, and deeper emotional wounds or trauma.
- You feel stuck. Feeling stuck in therapy can mean a number of things. It may mean you need a different approach that your therapist may or may not be able to provide. It may mean there’s an impasse in the relationship. Maybe you’re experiencing resistance. It’s helpful to identify why you feel stuck so you can decide how best to proceed.
Ask yourself the following questions: Am I still benefiting from therapy? Do I feel like my therapist gets me? Do I feel comfortable with my therapist? Do I feel safe and supported? How do I feel when I imagine my life without this space or this relationship? Do I feel complete or unresolved?
If you find it’s time to break up with your therapist, breathe, and reassure yourself that it’s a sign of growth and maturity to recognize when a relationship isn’t serving you. Trust yourself. Although it might come with complex feelings, it can feel empowering to decide to make a change.