How to Know When It’s Time to Leave Your Therapist – Therapy Isn’t Supposed to Be Forever By Sherry Amatenstein
How to Know When It’s Time to Leave Your Therapist By Sherry Amatenstein
Here’s what the relationship between a therapist and a patient should be: compassionate. Accepting. Challenging — to the point of painful, sometimes.
It should be a space where you can air your flaws, where you feel free to talk about yourself practically nonstop without worrying about the person on the other end of the conversation.
Here’s what it shouldn’t be: infinite.
As I’ve reminded patients, my job isn’t to make them dependent on me. It’s to help them reach a place where they don’t need me anymore.
But quitting your therapist isn’t as easy as quitting, say, your accountant or dentist — cutting ties with someone who’s repeatedly listened to you spill your guts can be an uncomfortable prospect, or even a frightening one.
And many people seek out therapy in the first place to deal with issues related to attachment and loss, which can make it that much harder to excise someone from your life. Still, like therapy itself, ending things can be a huge opportunity for healing and growth.
The trick is to know when to do it, whether it’s because things aren’t working out or because it’s just time to move on.
Sometimes, the signs are obvious, like when your therapist clearly isn’t the right fit for you. Research has shown that a positive “therapeutic alliance” is crucial for treatment success.
This doesn’t mean that you need to have a ton in common with your therapist — you don’t necessarily have to laugh at the same jokes or understand the same cultural references — but it does mean that they need to understand you and your thought processes.
After the first couple of sessions, you shouldn’t have to keep laboriously explaining yourself or rehashing the same details. When it’s a good match, your therapist remembers things that are important, and never insists you do something that doesn’t fit your values.
…But even the therapist-client relationships with no red flags — even the healthiest, most productive ones — likely should eventually come to an end. In the first session or two, you and your therapist hopefully discussed treatment goals.
…Some people benefit from open-ended, long-term therapy — especially people battling chronic issues like depression or grappling with early abuse or trauma — but for the most part, there will be an end point defined by the progress you’ve made.
Maybe you’ve reached it when you notice a decrease in symptoms, or when you find yourself able to use new coping skills in triggering situations (both of which, research has shown, are commonly cited reasons for ending treatment).
Read the remainder of that article here.