3 Options For Breaking Up With Your Therapist When Things Just Aren't Working Out

Photo: getty
woman looking through glass window

If you're getting therapy, you know that you have a unique relationship with your therapist. 

You are two human beings, randomly selected and placed in a room together with the expectation of deep vulnerability and emotional sharing for the sake of mental health. No pressure, right?

But, when the relationship goes sideways and you no longer feel comfortable sharing your thoughts with them, it's best for you both "break up."

Luckily, you have options so that you don't have to worry about hurting your therapist's feelings.

RELATED: 15 Common Types Of Therapy And How To Know Which You Need

If you want to know how to break up with your therapist when things just aren't working out, here are 3 options to choose from.

1. Find a reason to cancel any upcoming appointments.

This will also help you avoid possible no-show fees. 

Or you can ghost them but, honestly, this is the least helpful option for you and them. (Don't ghost your therapist.)

2. Talk to them, face-to-face.

This is a hopeful option and allows you to be honest.

Say something like, "Hey, therapist, I’ve been feeling like this isn’t the best match for me because (give an example or experience) and I’d like to know if you have any ideas of local therapists I could see who are more (insert personality trait or training style)."

If you think that they're a good person but not a good fit for you, throw in a statement of gratitude such as, "I do appreciate the time we worked together, I especially found (insert a tip or technique here) to be helpful."

Also, ask for any future appointments to be canceled to avoid possible no-show fees.

3. E-mail them.

If you don't want to talk to them face-to-face or are too anxious to do so, you can just e-mail the above statement to them.

And, of course, don't forget to ask for any future appointments to be canceled to avoid possible no-show fees.

As a therapist, myself, I want to take a moment to defend my profession. 

What are the odds that you could be paired with a stranger and you feel completely comfortable? What are the odds that two sets of ideologies align in such a way that you feel understood?

What are the odds that you feel like a space is psychologically safe upon entering? What are the odds that someone else will understand your idiosyncrasies in such a way that you experience being "known" in a short period of time?

Here's the answer: The odds are not great!

The reality is that therapists receive a lot of training and education on personality traits, body language, being non-judgmental of differences, and comprehension of different cultural norms and communication styles.  

We are also required to obtain ongoing education on similar topics. The education and training that we receive do help improve the odds that the relationship will go better than it would with random strangers.

RELATED: 7 Helpful Tips To Help You Open Up In Therapy — Even When You're Scared

However, the reality is that not every single therapist-client pairing could possibly go well!

Why not?

Well, therapists are supposed to check their own opinions at the door — ethically and professionally. Therapists are not supposed to judge or discriminate at all. 

All that being said, you may still experience some ideology leakage in a session that causes you to feel misunderstood. Or, even worse, you may experience microaggressions in reaction to your experience. 

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Join now for YourTango's trending articles, top expert advice and personal horoscopes delivered straight to your inbox each morning.

That's a red flag that the match is not a beneficial one for you.

The takeaway here is that you have a choice when it comes to choosing a therapist for your needs.

How I make sure my clients are comfortable

I build this conversation into every intake appointment I have. 

I ask clients to give me two to three sessions so that we can fully experience one another’s personalities and styles. But, if at that point, they, for any reason, do not feel like I am the right therapist for them, I use humor to tell them that I can handle rejection and that I am 100 percent open to the discussion (if they’re willing to have it).

In this way, I can help them find a therapist who's a better fit. I remind my clients that we live in a current culture of "ghosting" and that they can use me to practice a healthy "breakup" with their therapist.

Things may or may not go well, so they need to honor their own experience, not question their gut feelings

Think about this — If you were shopping for produce and a local store regularly had over-ripe or partially rotten fruit, would you keep buying it? You are the consumer and you have the right to go to a different grocer to find better fruit. 

In the same way, remember that you are also the consumer of therapy and you do not have to continue to receive services that you feel are unhelpful for you. You can use other resources on the internet or take a look at your insurance company's website to find a new therapist in your region.

Don't keep wondering how to break up with your therapist. Take actionable steps to make sure you find the right mental health support for you. 

RELATED: What’s The Difference Between Therapy & Coaching? How To Find The Best Support For You

Alexandria Fields, MSW, LISW-S, is a therapist in Cincinnati, Ohio and the founder of Your Mental Restoration. You can find her on the Your Mental Restoration website or follow her on Instagram @therapy.with.alyx.