Medically reviewed by Jill Johnson, DNP, APRN, FNP-BC
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 12/18/2021
Breakups always stink — but some can be easier to manage than others, and of course, healthy.
If you’ve been diagnosed with depression, anxiety or any other form of mental illness, therapy can help you change your thoughts and behavior to better deal with your symptoms. Yet while therapy can be incredibly helpful, a large degree of your success depends on finding the right therapist for you.
In some cases, you might “click” with a therapist right away. Other times, it might be obvious from the start that your therapist just isn’t the right one for you. (It’s a little like dating, right?)
If you feel like your therapist isn’t a good match, or if their approach to therapy just isn’t what you’re seeking, it’s okay to end things and try someone else.
So how do you break up with your therapist?
We’re not going to lie: “Breaking up” with your therapist can feel daunting, especially if you’re used to seeing them on a regular basis. However, it’s something you can do, and it’s often the right move to make when you feel like therapy just isn’t working for you.
Below, we’ve explained when you should consider breaking up with your therapist, along with six tips on how to do it — from the basics of writing a breakup email to asking your current therapist for a referral.
Put simply, yes. It’s absolutely okay to break up with your therapist if you feel like they just can’t offer the type of help you need, or if you think their approach to therapy doesn’t match your needs as a person.
Over time, it’s normal to develop a close therapeutic relationship with your therapist. You’ll meet with them often, even online, and spend each therapy session talking about intimate aspects of your life.
You’ll put your trust in them and rely on them to help you make progress throughout the therapy process.
For your therapy relationship to work, it’s essential that you feel like you’re on the same page as your therapist. And if you feel like things aren’t working, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with ending the relationship with your current therapist and switching to someone you think is better suited to you.
Remember that the goal of therapy is to help you. If you feel like your therapist isn’t helping you achieve success in therapy, you can and often should move on from them.
Working out when to switch therapists can be tough. Sometimes, you might gradually develop a sense that your therapist isn’t right for you. In other cases, your therapist may do something that makes you feel uncomfortable or unable to safely share your life with them.
Since everyone and every professional relationship is different, there’s no one-size-fits-all guide you can follow to know when to break up with your therapist.
However, you should generally think about reconsidering your relationship with your therapist in the following situations:
You don’t trust your therapist. Trust is essential for effective therapy. (It’s the same with any relationship.) And if you feel you can’t open up with your therapist due to a lack of trust, it could be a sign that you’re better off with someone else.
You feel uncomfortable with your therapist. Has your therapist said something that makes you feel uncomfortable? Therapy can be challenging at times, but you shouldn’t ever feel uncomfortable in your therapist’s presence.
Your therapist is difficult to see. Sometimes, your problems with a therapist might be logistical. Maybe they’re located far from you and the distance makes seeing them too inconvenient, or maybe their availability doesn’t match your schedule.
You don’t feel better after therapy. Therapy sometimes involves uncomfortable ideas and feelings, but it shouldn’t leave you feeling bad. If you often feel worse after therapy, it may be a sign that you’re not seeing the right therapist for you.
You feel like you’re not making progress. The goal of therapy is to improve the way you think, feel and behave, especially if you’ve been diagnosed with a specific form of mental illness. If you feel like you aren’t making progress with your therapist, don’t feel afraid to switch to someone who can better help you progress on your mental health journey.
You feel like you no longer need therapy. Sometimes, breakups are positive. If you no longer feel like you need therapy (and your therapist agrees), there’s nothing wrong with having a mutual breakup with your therapist.
It’s also important to end your relationship with your therapist if they’ve behaved inappropriately toward you, harmed you or broken the law.
Most mental health professionals are dedicated, ethical people who set out to help you first and foremost.
If your therapist has made an ethical violation — for example, by sharing your information with a third party or making a sexual advance toward you — you should end your relationship as soon as you can.
In this situation, you should also consider reporting your therapist’s misconduct to any scientific and professional organizations to which the therapist belongs, as well as the relevant licensing board in your state or area.
Misconduct from therapists and other mental health providers is rare, but it’s important that you take swift action when it occurs to protect yourself and others.
Breaking up with your therapist can feel daunting, but the reality is that it’s rarely as difficult as it seems.
Therapists are professionals, and like other healthcare providers, they are very aware that people move on from therapy for all sorts of reasons.
To make the process of moving to a new therapist (or to life without therapy) as smooth as possible, use the following tips and techniques.
Before you pull the plug on your relationship with your current therapist, it helps to work out why you want to end things.
Try to make a list of the reasons you don’t feel comfortable with or confident in the therapist you currently see.
This could include things like a lack of comfort, different values or simply a feeling that you can’t achieve your goals in therapy with your current therapist.
Or perhaps you feel you have outgrown your relationship with your therapist, and can no longer benefit from sessions.
Once you’re written down your reasons for breaking up with your therapist, try to work out if any of them are fixable. Can you talk to your therapist and improve the situation, or is it best to move on to someone else?
If you feel like things just aren’t working out, or if your working relationship with your therapist is damaged beyond repair, it’s often a clear sign to move on to someone else.
Even if your therapist isn’t the right person for you, your relationship with them is still important and deeply personal.
After you’ve decided to end your relationship with your therapist, reach out and let them know.
You and your therapist may decide to discuss the matter at your final apportionment and plan a new approach you can use to move forward.
If you don’t have time to meet your therapist in person, or if you no longer feel comfortable with them, it’s also okay to let them know over the phone.
Above all, avoid ghosting your therapist. Not only is this unfair to your therapist — it can also set you back by limiting your ability to ask them for referrals or clear up any remaining issues before you formally end treatment.
If you don’t feel comfortable talking to your therapist, or if your therapist isn’t available, it’s okay to end your therapeutic relationship via email.
How much you choose to share with your therapist in your email is completely up to you, but it’s important to keep in mind that you don’t need to provide a long, detailed explanation of why you want to end things.
If you’ve only seen your therapist for a few sessions, a brief email explaining that you’d prefer to try something different is completely appropriate.
If you’ve had a good experience with your therapist, make sure to mention this in your “breakup” email.
A short message letting your therapist know that you’re trying a different approach or just want to work with a different mental health provider is absolutely fine.
Make sure to follow your therapist’s instructions for cancellations if you no longer plan to attend your next few appointments.
Every therapist has had people switch providers, move to new locations or just move on from therapy. As professionals, very few therapists are offended or upset by saying goodbye to a client who leaves in a friendly, respectful manner.
If you have a clear, specific reason for ending therapy, such as a cultural mismatch or a sense that your therapist didn’t quite click with you, don’t be afraid to let your therapist know.
Being direct and honest with your therapist can not only help you end the relationship — it can also help them to understand your reasons for leaving.
In some cases, your therapist may be able to suggest a more suitable provider based on your specific issues and feedback.
If nothing else, letting your therapist know about your feelings can be therapeutic for you and help you properly move on.
If you want to continue therapy, consider looking into other therapists before you break up with your current one.
Once you find a new therapist you feel comfortable talking to, make sure to reach out to your previous therapist to ask for a release of information.
This will provide your new therapist with access to any relevant notes and other information they’ve kept about your personal needs.
Your therapist is a professional, and they’ll understand that ending a relationship with a therapy client is a normal part of the process.
If you’re planning to continue with therapy after ending treatment with your current therapist, don’t feel afraid or hesitant to ask them for a referral.
Your therapist may be able to recommend someone who can better address your concerns or needs. A good referral can make moving on to a new therapist easier and help you avoid time away from therapy while you search for someone new.
Breaking up with your therapist is a normal, natural thing to do, whether you no longer feel like you need therapy or because you’d prefer to take part in therapy with someone else.
Remember that the therapeutic process is all about helping you. If you no longer feel like you’re getting help from your therapist, it’s okay to end your therapeutic relationship.
Not only will your therapist understand — they may help you find someone more suited to your unique needs as a person.
If you’d like to take part in therapy from home, you can connect with a provider online using several online options such as our range of mental health services.
You can also find out more about effectively dealing with depression, anxiety and other common mental health issues with our free mental health resources.
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