How To Break Up With Your Therapist, According To A Therapist

- Relationships -
How To Break Up With Your Therapist, According To A Therapist

So, you want to break up with your therapist. Naturally, this is a weird situation to navigate — we hardly learn how to break up with partners or friends, let alone a clinician we've been paying for months or years. There are so many different reasons that could inspire a potential therapist/client split, and to that end, there are so many different ways to approach each break up conversation.

Below, I use my experience as a therapist to map out some popular break up scenarios and how to handle them. These kinds of conversations aren’t always going to be a breeze, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be having them. Put whatever money you've spent on therapy to good use and strike up an honest but straightforward conversation about why you'd like to part ways.

Here are the most popular reasons you might need to break up with your therapist, and what to say.

Scenario #1: You’re moving

Alright, this first scenario is pretty cut and dry, and it's certainly one of the more effortless conversations to have with your therapist. And, if you like your therapist, it might even be a bit of a sad situation to talk about leaving. So, you know what you could do? Tell them!

Part of the beauty of therapy is that everything can be talked about and processed, including your feelings about leaving your therapist or moving. Tell them if you’re sad about leaving them and if you’re nervous to start the hunt for another good therapist again.

If you’re talking about this in-session, it could sound like, “So, I’m getting nervous about moving because I’m sad to lose you and find a new therapist. Can we talk about this?”

You never know where this conversation will lead, but I can almost promise you it will be worth it and healing. If your therapist offers up Zoom or phone calls and that's not something you'd like to pursue (in-person is more your style) then just say that.

Scenario #2: You're no longer vibing

Finding a therapist is very similar to dating in the sense that *vibes matter.*

Now listen — I’m not going full woo-woo on you, but it is important to find someone who makes you feel safe. Notice how I didn’t say "comfortable"? That’s because therapy will likely be uncomfy a large majority of the time — but the good kind of uncomfy. So making sure you find a therapist you vibe with is an excellent start to ensuring you have the right therapist for you. You are the most important person in that therapy room (virtual or in-person), and your therapist is trained to be there for anything you bring up – including the vibe between the two of you.

So, what if you don’t vibe? I think it’s important to let a therapist know you are leaving them because something isn't clicking between the two of you. It’s a wonderful opportunity to have an uncomfy conversation, and we all need help having those kinds of conversations. If you've been seeing your therapist for a while, I recommend having the conversation during your session. If you're still pretty new to each other, it can be done over email.

If an email sounds better or feels more appropriate given the time you’ve been seeing them, typing something like, “Hi, ____. I’m writing to let you know that I will no longer be coming to you for therapy. Thank you so much for your time and the work you do — wishing you all the best.”

Now, many therapists will request to hop on a call with you. Why is that? Often, clients bolt when something comes up in therapy that feels overwhelming or scary. And as a good clinician, they want to make sure that the reason you’re leaving therapy is genuinely for you and not out of avoidance of something else.

Scenario #3: It doesn’t seem like they are experienced in talking about your sexuality or relationship design (ENM, LGBTQ+, etc.)

Here’s a cold, hard fact: not all therapists will be equipped to meet every person’s unique needs — and that’s okay (it’s very human, actually). A good therapist knows the scope of their work and will hopefully be honest about their strengths and limitations. It is absolutely okay and even encouraged to switch therapists if they’re not "getting" whatever part of your life is paramount to your core being.

Now, there’s a difference between feeling like your therapist is judgmental of who you are and not being super educated around these aspects of your life. A therapist’s job is not to be judgmental, so leave if you feel judgment coming from them.

That being said, finding a therapist specializing in your specific needs is significant, whether that be someone specializing in OCD, ADHD, anxiety, depression, grief — you name it. You deserve to feel truly understood in your therapy environment in whatever specialty you desire — it just might take a bit to hunt down the right person.

If you feel like your therapist doesn't have the specialty you need, you could send something like, “Hi _____. I’m writing to let you know I’ve decided to look for an LGBTQ+ specific therapist. I’m looking for a bit more of a deep dive into this aspect of myself — I appreciate my time with you and am so thankful for the work you do.” It can be short, sweet, and honest.

Scenario #4: They’ve made you feel unsafe or unheard when you’re expressing yourself

Hopefully, this is an uncommon experience, but it can definitely still happen. Under these circumstances, I say it’s a-okay to “ghost” your therapist if you were made to feel unsafe. Although, if they don’t work independently and work for a business, such as an online therapy portal, it is okay to tell the company about your experience. Because if you felt unsafe, it’s likely others have too, and that is important to bring to attention.

That email conversation could sound like, “Hello (business name). I’m reaching out to let you know that I will no longer be doing sessions with _____. During our session, I felt unsafe when they (a brief description of what happened without disclosing your personal information). I wanted to bring this to your attention, so it doesn’t happen to anyone else. Thank you!”

It might feel uncomfy, but sometimes it is important to speak up for yourself and future others.

Scenario #5: You just need a break from therapy

There are different seasons of life for everything — this could be money-related, time-related, mental health-related, relationship-related, you name it! If you feel like you need a break from therapy, it’s okay to tell your therapist that. And for this scenario, I recommend teeing up the conversation in an email and then having the conversation in your last session.

If it’s for financial reasons, the conversation could sound something like, “Hi ____! I’m writing to let you know that I need to put therapy on hold for financial reasons. I’m so grateful for my time with you and hope to be back soon (if you are, that is). I’d love to discuss this in my next and last session with you. Thank you!”

If you are leaving for other reasons, it could sound like, “Hi _____. I’m writing to let you know that I need to put therapy on hold for a bit. I have loved working with you and hope to be back in the future and would love to talk about this with you during our last session. Thank you for your time!”

Scenario #6: You want to pause therapy to explore what coaching sessions are like

There are significant differences between therapy and coaching — for example, therapy is very important for helping to work through specific traumas, suicidal ideation, intense anxieties, and coping with different things such as OCD and ADHD (at least at the beginning of being diagnosed). Coaching offers a different approach while also generally being a lot more niche.

For example, you could specifically see a coach specializing in discussing deconstructing purity culture or navigating ENM relationships or grief. Plus, coaching bypasses a lot of therapy “rules,” meaning that coaches can relate to their clients more often, which for a lot of people, is very beneficial for helping work through specific issues.

If you’re breaking up with your therapist to work with a coach, be honest! Say something like, “Hi ____! I’m writing to let your know that I’m stopping therapy from beginning working with a coach that specializes in ______. I have enjoyed working with you greatly and now feel ready to deep dive into this specific aspect of my life with someone who has experienced something similar. Thank you so much for your time!”

Just like most of our other relationships in our lives, conversations seem scary because we often weren’t provided the language for them. An important thing to remember is that you are talking to a human being, who, most likely (and hopefully), also wants the best for you. And when we practice these hard conversations, we get stronger in knowing how to speak up for ourselves, which is one of the most important things to learn how to do.

So, whatever your specific situation is, remember that your therapist is also just a human striving to do good, who would most likely love to talk to you about terminating your therapeutic relationship before it stops cold. It will provide both of you with space to put a period at the end of a meaningful relationship, no matter how long it lasted.

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

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