Written by DiveThru Team
Reviewed by Dr. Melissa Shepard MD
Knowing When & How To Break Up With Your Therapist
Published May 28th, 2021 & updated on Jul 27th, 2021
Sometimes there’s just a moment when you’re sitting in your therapist’s office and thinking to yourself “I don’t think this is working.” It could be something as simple as the two of you not clicking, or as difficult as a therapist that’s plain ol’ bad at their job. Either way, recognizing that your therapist isn’t right for you is totally okay! It’s better to acknowledge when something isn’t helping you than to stay and suffer silently. Bottom line — you don’t want a Tobias Fünke from Arrested Development therapist, you want a Dr. Jean Milburn from Sex Education therapist!
Well, we have some good news! We’re here to help you recognize a good vs bad therapist, know when to settle for a “good enough” therapist, and figure out how to break up with your therapist when the time comes!
Signs Of A Bad Therapist
Okay, let’s start with the not-so-nice stuff. A bad therapist can be more detrimental to your mental health than beneficial (and that’s defs not what you went to therapy looking for!). Luckily, we chat about this on the Anxious Like You podcast with therapists Nadia Addessi and Micheline Maloouf. Here’s a list of things to look out for!
A bad therapist might:
- Joke about a trigger
- Disregard your confidentiality
- Not respect your boundaries
- Judge you for sharing your problems
Like, wtf, right?! This is AWFUL. But, try to remember that this is NOT a true representation of therapy. A bad therapist is an exception, not the rule.
“I think a therapist who tries to push a client beyond what they’re ready for is not a good therapist,” says Nadia. “Maybe your therapist sees what’s best for you on the other side, and tries to push you to do it. But if you’re not comfortable, and they keep trying to force it more and more to the point that it makes you feel pressured to do it, that’s almost bullying.”
Another way you can know how to spot a bad therapist is by watching their behaviour. Essentially, if they’re focusing on anything other than you, we’ve got a problem — ‘cause that’s LITERALLY what you’re paying them to do! So, keep this lil’ reminder in the back of your brain… Any amount of eating, checking the clock, or inattentiveness is a red flag. If that’s what you’re experiencing then don’t worry about how to break up with your therapist and just get the heck out of there!
“That hour is the one hour that is reserved for you,” adds Micheline. “So, if a therapist is using that one hour to eat their meals, to text a friend, to take a nap, then it’s not your hour. You’re being cheated of your hour.”
Signs Of A Good Therapist
Now that we’re done with the negative stuff, we can focus on the positive! Knowing how to find a good therapist isn’t exactly second nature, but you can start by figuring out what you WANT in a therapist. The traits that probably come to mind are along the lines of “compassionate,” “empathetic,” “listens to me,” “genuinely cares,” and “is honest with me.” And those are exactly the type of things that a good therapist should be!
Oh, and a good therapist does the exact opposite of everything we listed in the first section. All of their attention is on you, they respect your boundaries and confidentiality, they never joke about your triggers and they certainly never, EVER judge you!
“When you genuinely understand someone it’s really hard to judge them,” adds Nadia. “This is what we’re trained in — learning to understand someone on a deep level. A good therapist is going to do that. And, that’s going to take away the judgment, or at least give them a better understanding of who you are and why you do the things that you do.”
Finding The Right Therapist
Alright, so you understand that nobody’s perfect, right? Perfection is pretty much impossible to reach — and the same goes for therapists! Plus, hunting for the absolute best-of-the-best therapist can be super time-consuming and expensive.
So, your best bet is to find someone who meets you right in the middle. Someone who definitely doesn’t follow any of the bad practices we listed at the top of the article but definitely DOES listen to you and validate your feelings! Your “right” therapist may not be a “perfect” therapist, BUT they’ll be willing to work with you to figure out what works best for you.
How To Break Up With Your Therapist
When it comes to ending therapy, there are four main ways you can go about it. And it all depends on the situation you’re in! Maybe they’re a really, really bad therapist. Or maybe it just wasn’t the right fit. Whatever it was, we’re gonna help you choose how to break up with your therapist!
Honesty really is the best (and the hardest) policy. Sometimes you just have to sit with your therapist face-to-face and tell them exactly what is and isn’t working! Either they’ll be able to adjust their therapy style to better suit what you need, or you’ll have to tell them point-blank that you want to stop sessions. We know, not the easiest option…but hey, that’s why we’re giving you a few options to choose from!
If you want to stop therapy completely, make sure you let them know! Whether you say it face-to-face in your last session, call them and fill them in over the phone, or send them an e-mail explaining what’s going on. It’ll save them the hassle of trying to contact you to rebook and allow them to book in someone else who might benefit from their particular style. It’s also helpful to give them a little feedback on what did and didn’t work for you — so they can grow as a professional.
“From a therapist’s perspective, we like it when we know,” says Nadia. “It gives us a chance to build for the next person and an opportunity to grow.”
Ask For A Referral
Believe it or not, a lot of therapists are friends with other therapists. So, if it’s reeeeally not a good fit, ask your therapist to refer you to another one! There won’t be any hard feelings, because they want you to get the best outcome from therapy that you possibly can. And if another therapist is the way to do that, then they’ll defs help you out!
Ghost Them If You Have To
Ghosting your therapist is the last option, and is usually reserved for the worst-case scenarios! Let’s say you have one of the really bad therapists we mentioned above…that might make for a difficult situation when you try to break up with them. You don’t want to tell them to their face that they’re not doing a great job — and you might be sooo triggered that even the THOUGHT of talking to them again makes you anxious af. In that case, ghosting might be your best bet!
“I think if your experience was horrible and you had a really bad first session and you never want to go back… You can ghost them, you can call them out, you can use your own judgement,” explains Nadia. “I think it’s really awkward and sometimes really hard, so there’s no shame or judgement here if you have ghosted your therapist.”
For more insight on how to break up with your therapist, listen to the “Good Therapists vs. Bad Therapists” episode of the Anxious Like You podcast!