How to Break Up With Your Therapist

Having a psychiatrist or psychotherapist in your life when you need one is a wonderful thing. With the passage of time, you develop a relationship with your therapist, which can last for months, even years. But when it is ‘over’ and you are no longer benefiting from it, how do you say goodbye to a therapist? Do you ‘fire’ them? Do you just walk away? You have options and all of them are explained in this article.


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    Recognize when it is time to break up with your therapist

    There are many reasons to leave therapy and the decision is in your hands. Some of the signs that it might be time to end it:

    - The circumstances that brought you to therapy no longer exist. The anxiety attacks you had are long gone. The depression or sadness lifted some time ago or you're on medication to manage it. The confusion you suffered from in a relationship has given way to clarity and positive action. The issue or traumatic event that upset you then is a distant memory.

    - In addition to feeling and knowing that therapeutic benefits have taken place, the quality and benefit of the sessions has diminished. For example, the conversation with your therapist has evolved to being light, meaningless and more social than therapeutic. If it feels like a conversation you have with a friend, it is not therapy.

    - You and the therapist run out of meaningful things to discuss. This is a huge red flag. If you are coming into sessions without an agenda or need, and your therapist is not effectively probing or guiding you to useful discussions, you probably don't need to be there. If you feel you are entertaining your therapist with events in your life, and there is a lot of laughter or banter, you have to question what YOU are getting from it.

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    Consider your options for how to say goodbye

    If you have had an honest, trusting and caring relationship with your therapist, you should discuss your plans with him or her. Explain your reasons for feeling that you no longer need therapy and hear what he or she has to say about ending it. Brace yourself for the possibility the therapist will not like or agree with what you are saying. Have a dialogue about it, but make your own decision.

    If you feel ill-will towards your therapist, particularly after communicating that you want to leave and meeting resistance, you can take a breather from it and space your next session out further. If you were coming bi-weekly, schedule a session a month away. If you were coming monthly, make it a routine of two months. The break in routine will probably give you the clarity you need and signals that you are serious about ending therapy.

    The other option is just to walk away, by not scheduling additional sessions.

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    Make arrangements before leaving therapy if you are on antidepressants or anti-anxiety meds

    If your therapist has prescribed medication, and you have been told/expect to continue taking it indefinitely, you have to plan in advance to transfer responsibility for writing those prescriptions. Depending on the diagnosis and dosage, your internist or family doctor may be willing to write these prescriptions for you.

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