The Polite Way to Break Up (With Your Therapist)
It’s not easy to share your darkest thoughts with someone and trust that they’ll understand — let alone advise with a harmonious balance between acceptance and growth. And when a therapist doesn’t hear you out, it takes only a minute for that trust to crumble.
Read this post once, and it’s about my ex-therapist. Twice, and it’s about my most stressful un-relationships past. Three times, and it’s about my parents.
If only I had known that the polite way to break up with your therapist was some mincing of:
I don’t think you can help me any further.
If I can’t comfortably open up to you about what I need, this isn’t going to work out.
Instead, I straight up lied: “I feel a lot better now and don’t think I need therapy anymore. Thanks for listening!”
“Yay! I’m glad I could help. The point of therapy is to strengthen your skills enough that you don’t need it anymore. If you want to talk again, you know where to find me!”
I wanted things to end “perfectly” before I slammed the digital door, with no way left for her to contact me. And I looked for a new therapist.
Why the hell did I do that?
In short, because I got the vibe that she didn’t understand, and it was time to abandon ship.
I spent more than one night ruminating on that, even months later. Lying to a therapist is like hiring independent escorts and faking orgasms. On a professional level, it potentially hurts her because she doesn’t know if she did her job right. However…
On a personal level, I don’t owe her anything.
It happens. Whatever my ex-therapist and her current clients do is not my burden to bear. Nor is what she thinks of me.
(Wise advice from my current therapist.)
I should have told my ex-therapist how I felt, sure. But I already got the impression that she didn’t hear what I was saying about a deeper problem present. That my greatest fear was of others seeing me as ineffective and defective. That she was getting pushy about where I “should” be. Without her contribution, I had already hit my psyche with a hammer where I needed a hug.
And if she didn’t seem receptive to my further expression of concerns, would attempting to work past that even be worth it?
That would be grounds for ending any other relationship, after all.
It took me months to discover the magic words: “I don’t think you can help me any further.”
It took me months to articulate the problem. To understand where my ex-therapist was coming from vs. where I was coming from — and I still partly disagree with her and found her words detrimental to me in the long run. They weren’t what I needed at the time.
That further reinforces that things couldn’t have been that much different. I genuinely did the best I could with what I knew. She did the best she could and still wasn’t a good fit. It was for the better that I stopped talking to her.
Remember that therapists are human, too.
The human element is both the life and limitation of talk therapy. Counselors have their own experiences, projections, and insecurities, so I don’t want one who positions herself as being above me. However, it’s also because of that, that they cannot be 100% accurate in assessing what would be helpful for you to hear. Even if they are doing the best with what they’ve been given.
A good therapist knows when and how to ask questions for clarity. They get a feel for whether you’re receptive before giving feedback. They get curious when meeting resistance. “What’s the fear behind this?”
Accidental agitation or discomfort can happen, but the right therapist for you will have an idea of how to minimize or prepare for that — so that you can work through your triggers with them. Only then can their counsel get through to you.
It’s okay to take a break from your therapist…
If you’re unsure whether your therapist is right for you, you can take a step back to digest your sessions. Maybe talk to other therapists. Remember that you’re under no obligation to continue with one therapist long-term. You’re under no obligation to get better on any set timeline.
Sometimes, therapy is uncomfortable. It takes time to “do your homework.”
It takes time to peel through layers of the onion and understand why something bothers you more than it “should” — or why you’re “should”-ing yourself so often to begin with. And that’s okay.
Building trust doesn’t happen overnight. Growth takes gradually increasing vulnerability while still knowing that:
- The other person will do their best not to hurt you.
- When they do hurt you, it’s their priority to understand why, make it right, and do better.
What matters is that they’re at least the type of person you’d like to trust as much as a friend.
…but if something doesn’t feel right, it’s up to you
It’s also okay if you can’t see yourself trusting or relating to them. I’ve had therapists I meshed well with, and therapists I didn’t. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the latter group is inept (though some might be) or that I’m insufferable. (I’d like to think that I’m an easier client than say, an arsonist.)
Anxiety isn’t my default state. So if I check my texts in the morning, anticipating that I’ll read something I find condescending or judgmental from my counselor, I know that there’s something wrong. If I’m continually gauging what I’m “supposed to” say, or how to put on the best performance of competence, it’s not a good fit.
Deciding whether a therapist is right for you ultimately boils down to two questions:
- What do I need?
- Do I trust this person to help me?
…and I believe in my ability to discern that for myself!
Even if the problem might be “just” my mindset sometimes, that’s still a sign that the therapist doesn’t work well with my needs. There are times where I want to unscrew my head off my body and take a break from being a human (or fly off to the Sunshine Coast). During therapy shouldn’t be one of them.
Hey! This post was sponsored. All opinions expressed are my own, as always.