How do you handle “breaking up” with a therapist?
From the therapist’s perspective I prefer for a client to attend a last “closure” session, but in reality, most clients are not willing to do so. In this era of texting, email, and other technological forms of communication most clients who want to move on simply no show or perhaps email, text, or send a voicemail.
Why you might decide that your therapist is not right for you:
- In most cases “trust your gut.” If you do not feel understood, connected, or valued, then it may be time to switch. Therapists are trained to communicate their understanding and caring to the client. If you are not feeling understood and cared for, then it may not be present within the therapist. If it is not present within the therapist or the therapist does not have the ability to communicate it, then this is a very serious issue and you are best seeking another therapist. Research in psychotherapy suggests that the most effective therapists are able to consistently demonstrate to the client that they “understand” the client’s perspective and communicate that understanding to the client.
- Also, even though most clients “want” suggestions, advice, and direction, if your therapist offers advice or “directs” you in a particular direction it is time to switch. Competent therapists rarely, if ever, offer advice. They also avoid talking to the client with words like “should, must, ought to, etc.” except when reflecting what the client has said directly.
- For the most part, therapist self-disclosure is more about the need of the therapist to disclose than it is helpful to the client. While you might momentarily “enjoy” therapist disclosures, if your therapist frequently self-discloses this is a red flag for the therapy.
- This sign might seem counter intuitive, but therapists who verbally are “sympathetic” can actually be harmful. Sympathetic (as opposed to empathic) responses share the therapist’s reaction to your situation. For example, “I feel so bad for you; I am sorry that is happening to you; I am excited just hearing you talk about that.” There are many reasons why sympathetic responses are harmful including it indicates that the therapist is inwardly focused and distracted and not focusing on what is happening with you, the client.
- Unless the relationship is really bad, then working with the therapist to either work through the issues of dissatisfaction or work on an ending process can be growthful. Often clients end as a form of avoidance or discomfort. Even if specific dissatisfactions with the therapist are not addressed in therapy, working through an ending process with the therapist can be growth producing.