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Reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Regardless of where you are in your therapy journey, changing therapists can be a daunting task.
There are a variety of reasons that can lead to you switching to a new mental health professional. You may find that you’re no longer making progress with your current provider, or that your specific needs simply aren’t being met.
Regardless of the reasoning, you should feel safe and supported in your therapy journey, just as you’re entitled to with the care of any other medical concern.
Here are some best practices we recommend if you’re going through the process of switching therapy providers.
Whether your switch is prompted by a change on the side of your provider, or simply because you’ve decided that it’s time to move on, have a conversation with your current therapist first if you feel comfortable doing so.
A therapist who needs to separate from a client for whatever reason will likely have feedback on the types of specialties to look for in a new provider, colleagues who may be able to continue your care or information that you should provide to your next therapist so that they can better support you.
For a therapist that you’ve decided to move on from, don’t hesitate to give feedback if you feel safe doing so. You may find that your provider can shift their own methods to better suit your needs, and that switching therapists may not be necessary at all.
Of course, a therapeutic relationship is just that — a relationship, and one you should feel comfortable in. If you ever feel uncomfortable with any medical provider, it’s critical to move on to someone better suited to your needs.
It’s ok to break up with your therapist.
So you’ve found a new provider you’re confident about and you’re ready to pick up right where you left off. Hold your horses.
As with any new relationship, it will take time for you and your therapist to get to know each other, and the process can be a challenge for both sides.
Your first one to two sessions will likely focus on intake, where your therapist will ask you questions about you and your mental health history.
During this portion, feel free to share information that you learned with your previous provider, as well as what did and didn’t work for you. However, don’t expect to fall right back into the level of rapport that you had before — though, it’s great if you do!
Give the relationship some time to warm up so that you can continue receiving the support you need.
While finding yourself in the position where you need to seek a new therapy provider may feel daunting, with the right tools you’ll be well on your way to finding the support that best matches your needs.
For more information about how therapy can work for you, check out the mental health care options offered by the hers platform. Our resources contain self guided options to help you further support your mental health.
Don’t forget, the goal is a relationship with your mental health provider that helps you feel supported and safe as you continue on with your therapy process.
Changing therapists isn’t as tough as it might seem. Most therapists understand that not every client will have their needs met through therapy, and that daily life issues such as distance and scheduling can play a role in whether or not a therapist is right for you.
Use the eight tips below to politely let your therapist know that you’re leaving and successfully move on to a new, more suitable mental health professional.
If you feel comfortable talking to your current therapist, consider letting them know that you’re switching to a new mental health provider.
Telling your therapist that you’re moving on might seem awkward, but it’s often a positive step for both of you. Talking openly about leaving can help you to find closure, make your needs in your new therapist clearer and help you end your therapeutic relationship on good terms.
If you don’t feel comfortable seeing your current therapist in person, or simply don’t have time to attend an in-person session, it’s also alright to end your relationship over the phone, by text or via email.
Therapists understand that people’s needs from therapy vary, and that not every client will have these needs met while seeing them. Letting your therapist know that you’re leaving can make it easier to move on while maintaining a positive relationship.
Everyone’s needs from therapy are unique, and an essential part of achieving good results from therapy is identifying your specific needs.
These could include meeting with a therapist that specializes in a certain type of therapy, has a background that matches yours, or simply has a personality and approach to therapy that works well for you.
To identify your needs:
Make a list of your key goals for therapy. These may include treating a mental health condition, such as depression or anxiety, or dealing with ongoing issues such as stress, anger management problems or relationship difficulties.
Ask yourself what type of therapist you’d like to see. Do you want a therapist that’s from the same background as you? Do you prefer someone who can remain distant, or prefer a therapist that’s warm and welcoming?
Try to make a list of features in your ideal therapy provider and environment, then make them part of your search for a new therapist.
By identifying your needs, not only can you identify a therapist that’s likely to be a better match than your current provider — you can also filter out therapists that aren’t suitable for your needs, are inconveniently located or just don’t quite fit.
Many therapists specialize in a certain type of treatment, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or exposure therapy. Others specialize in treating people from certain communities and backgrounds.
By doing your homework when comparing therapists, you can find someone that provides the right therapeutic style and focus for you.
Common approaches to therapy include:
Cognitive therapy. This type of therapy involves emphasizing your thoughts and the effects that they can have on your emotions and behavior. It often involves changing harmful thought processes that affect your mental well-being.
Behavior therapy. This type of therapy involves identifying and changing harmful and unhealthy behaviors. For example, it may involve overcoming a fear of something via repeated exposure to a certain item or situation.
Humanistic therapy. This type of therapy involves focusing on your individual nature and ability to make rational decisions. As part of humanistic therapy, you may find out more about yourself through exercises to develop your potential.
Psychoanalysis and psychodynamic therapies. These types of therapy involve the identification of harmful emotions, thoughts and behaviors, as well as the unconscious processes that cause or contribute to them.
Integrative or holistic therapy. This type of therapy combines multiple approaches to deliver personalized treatment that’s focused on helping you solve your problems and improve your quality of life.
Our guide to the different types of therapy goes into more detail about how a specific approach to therapy could be beneficial for you.
If you prefer a specific type of therapy, try to look for it when you’re browsing websites for local therapy providers. Many therapist directories also allow you to filter therapy providers by types of therapy offered, gender identity, issues treated and other factors.
By filtering providers to find one with the right therapeutic approach for you, you may feel more comfortable in therapy and find it easier to make meaningful progress.
Our guide to finding a therapist goes into more detail about what to look for when you compare local or online therapy providers.
If you liked your previous therapist but found it difficult to stick to your therapy schedule due to distance, consider looking for a therapist closer to your home.
While it’s important to select a therapist that meets your needs in terms of therapeutic process and their approach to therapy, it’s also vital to keep practical factors in mind.
For example, if a therapist is located far from your home or workplace, you may find that you’re more likely to skip appointments — an issue that could prevent you from accessing the benefits of therapy.
It’s also important to keep factors such as availability in mind. For example, if a therapist is only available at certain times of day that don’t match your schedule, you might find it harder to stick with treatment over the long term.
Put simply, compliance is a vital part of mental health treatment, and making sure you’re able to access your therapist easily can play a major role in helping you achieve success in therapy.
If you’re changing therapists because of the cost of therapy, you might want to consider looking for a therapist that offers sliding scale pricing.
Sliding scale pricing is set based on your income and/or dependents. If you have a low income, you may be able to access therapy at a reduced cost, allowing you to meet with a mental health provider without putting a strain on your financial resources.
The policies for sliding scale pricing can differ between therapists and locations. In areas with a high cost of living, such as major cities, the maximum income to qualify for sliding scale pricing may be higher than in other areas.
You can find sliding scale therapists by searching for “sliding scale therapist near me” in Google or using an online therapist directory to filter for sliding scale providers.
Another way to make the cost of taking part in therapy more manageable is to talk to a therapist online.
Online therapy offers numerous benefits, including more affordable access to a licensed mental health provider and the ability to take part in therapy from the privacy and comfort of your home instead of a therapy provider’s office.
It’s also much easier to switch therapists — something you might need to do several times if you have specific needs and want a therapist who can properly address them.
We provide online therapy as part of our range of mental health services, allowing you to quickly and easily access care and develop a therapy relationship from your home.
Meeting with a new therapist for the first time can feel daunting, but it’s far from impossible with the right preparation.
Before your first therapy appointment, get prepared by writing down the key issues you’d like to address with your therapist. It can also help to bring your list of goals you’d like to achieve from therapy.
If you feel it’s appropriate, don’t be afraid to let your new therapist know why you stopped seeing your previous therapist.
Most therapists are accustomed to seeing clients who’ve switched from a previous provider, and letting your therapist know why you took a break from therapy could help to start your new therapy cycle with a smooth, positive transition.
Our guide to what to expect in your first therapy session goes into greater detail about the steps you can take to prepare for your first appointment with a new therapy provider.
Changing therapists is a very normal, common thing, and you shouldn’t feel ashamed or worried if your current therapy provider just isn’t a good fit for you.
To successfully change therapists, use the tips above. Try to talk to your current therapist about why you’re leaving, then identify your needs and choose a provider that you think is equipped to help you accomplish your therapy goals.
If you can’t find the right therapist locally, consider taking part in online therapy — one of several mental health services we offer through our telehealth platform.
If you prefer to take part in therapy in a group setting, you may also want to consider joining an online support group to learn effective strategies in an anonymous, supportive space that’s free of judgment.
Finally, you can learn more about successfully coping with anxiety, stress, depression and other mental health concerns using our free mental health resources and content.
Kate Hagerty is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with over a decade of healthcare experience. She has worked in critical care, community health, and as a retail health provider.
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