As the old song goes “breaking up is hard to do.”
Ending an intimate relationship can be difficult to navigate at times and ending a therapeutic relationship isn’t any different. Regardless of your chosen method, the important thing to remember is that your therapy is just that; it’s your therapy. If it isn’t working for you for one reason or another, listen to that inner voice; there are plenty of other therapists in the sea, or, something like that.
So here are some potential options for breaking up with your therapist, complete with pros and cons for each method:
1. Ghosting: Skip sessions, don’t return calls, don’t reschedule. Disappear from their schedule, never to be seen again.
Pros: Well, you got out. Minimal effort. No awkward conversations.
Cons: You didn’t advocate for yourself or say what you needed. It’s more of an avoidance tactic than anything. When you (inevitably) run into him/her at the grocery store, you might feel awkward. No closure.
2. Surface Sessions: Scale back on your in-depth conversations about your feelings during upcoming sessions. Use the phrase “everything is great!” several times. Hope that the therapist notices this and suggests ending your sessions on their own; if not, work in comments about how you really don’t have anything to talk about (even if you really do).
Pros: Again, no need for awkward conversations about not wanting to come back. Gives the false idea that you are doing great and the therapy was productive. If therapist picks up what you’re throwing down, it’s an easy exit with no awkwardness.
Cons: It’s not true. I mean, if you really ARE doing great, and truly don’t need additional sessions, well that’s different. But if your therapist isn’t meeting your needs and you pretend you’re “just fine,” surface sessions will only offer you an out and doesn’t tell the truth about your thoughts and feelings nor give any valuable feedback the therapist can use for future clients.
3. “It’s Me, Not You.”: Tell your therapist you need to end your sessions with them and insist that it’s because of your lack of readiness to ‘do the work.’
Pros: Other than being an easy way out, I got nothin’.
Cons: You threw yourself under the bus! If you are truly ‘not ready’, fine. If you know deep down that you are ready but this therapist’s style, methodology, or vibe is making it difficult for you to connect, then being the fall guy for this thing not working out is unfair to you. Ask yourself “why am I taking on all the blame for this therapeutic relationship not working?” It’s another avoidance tactic, and one that unfairly removes all responsibility from the other party in the relationship; the therapist.
4. The Awkward Conversation: Be as open and honest as you can. Tell the therapist that his/her style is not a good fit for you and explain, if you are able to, what you do need in a therapy session.
Pros: It’s honest. You have explained the reasons it isn’t working out for you and it offers the therapist an opportunity for growth and self assessment. Your therapist most likely has an ideal colleague in mind to whom you can be referred. Chances are, if you’re feeling like the sessions aren’t going well, your therapist probably feels the same way. Therapists want you to get the best treatment you can, whether it’s with them or someone else. If anyone can handle an awkward conversation, it’s a therapist; we’re trained for that stuff! And I have to admit, there’s a bit of a proud moment when a client has the self-advocacy and strength to say what needs to be said, especially if it’s uncomfortable. Telling the truth about your needs, even if it means asking for another therapist, is the ultimate in self efficacy. That’s what it’s all about, right? That honest moment of truth; saying what you need and sitting with the discomfort of being real with someone, knowing that in the end it is the right thing to do for yourself. Gives me therapy chills.
Cons: It’s uncomfortable, like ripping off a band-aid. Even though you know the band-aid needs to come off, it’s not a fun thing to do. But ultimately, you will be glad you did it, as will your therapist.