12 Signs You Need to Break up with Your Therapist
Yes, talk therapy can be a lifesaver. But sometimes you need to dump a therapist and find a new one to truly benefit.
Therapy can help you get through a rough spot or it could save your life. People who go and commit to seeing it through often experience personal emotional growth and a more satisfying life, according to the American Psychiatric Association: About three-quarters of people who enter psychotherapy show some benefit from it. It’s been shown to improve emotions and behaviors and linked with positive changes in the brain and body. If you’re wondering if you could benefit, these are the signs you should consider seeing a therapist.
But it takes the right relationship with a therapist to make the magic happen. Here are some signs that the professional you’re seeing is not a good fit.
You’re always reminding her of your situation
Yes, she has a lot of clients, so you can’t expect her to remember everything. But you shouldn’t have to loop her in on your history week after week. It’s not up to you to lead the therapist. “Therapy requires commitment from both sides,” says Antonia Hall, MA, a psychologist and author of The Ultimate Guide to a Multi-Orgasmic Life. “If you feel your therapist isn’t attentive, it may be time for a new practitioner.”
You have a crush on him
It’s normal and common to develop feelings for your therapist. He’s someone you see often and you pour your heart out to him; he can make you feel safe and loved. But you don’t want feelings of attraction to get in the way of you being open and honest. If you’re saying things to make a good impression, you won’t maximize therapy’s potential. “A crush will hinder the authenticity required for your healing and growth,” says Hall. “If you experience feelings for your therapist, you’re compromising integrity for you both.”
You don’t see eye to eye
You should feel that your therapist supports your goals. Perhaps your therapist thinks you should break up with your boyfriend but you’re trying to mend the relationship. You want a therapist who is willing to accept the direction in which you want your life to go. The right therapist won’t always agree with you, but you don’t want someone who is critical of the things you feel are important. “You need a therapist who ‘gets you,’ at least most of the time,” says Jill Whitney, LMFT, who practices in Old Lyme, Conneticut, and blogs about relationships and sexuality. Find out what your therapist knows about your relationship.
He doesn’t value your time
You get to your appointments on time, but he always starts late because the client before you is always late. These things happen, but your session’s time shouldn’t be cut short. Also, the occasional canceled session is OK, but if it happens frequently, you’ll want to find a consistent and reliable therapist who values and respects your time. “You deserve a therapist who can provide you with the continuity needed to work in counseling,” says Gary Brown, PhD, LMFT, a couples therapist in Los Angeles.
You’re just not feeling it
You need to feel chemistry, spark, and connection with your therapist—it’s the best way to be sure that you’ll be able to open up and accept criticism. You want someone you feel comfortable with and who you feel cares and respects you unconditionally. “If you’ll be sharing some of the most vulnerable aspects of who you are and your life, you want a good rapport with your therapist,” says Dr. Brown. “Sometimes it happens in the first visit, and sometimes it takes a number of sessions before you feel safe enough to reveal your inner world.” You also want to feel like your therapist is genuinely interested in your well-being, says Dr. Brown. “Before you decide to move on, tell the therapist what you’re thinking and feeling about the relationship and why it may not be working for you.” If you’re having trouble finding someone you feel comfortable with, check out these therapist-approved tricks for finding one you trust.
He isn’t experienced in what you need him for
You want someone who is trained and has a handle on your specific needs. Not everyone is an expert in eating disorders or child abuse, for example. You want a therapist who has seen tons of patients with your problem. His lack of knowledge on what you’re going through could impact your recovery process. “Think about therapists like primary care physicians,” says Melissa Buffington, LMHC, who owns NewVu Therapy in Boca Raton, Florida. “You can see them for most things. But if something serious is wrong with your foot, you’ll want to find a podiatrist.”
He is imposing his own beliefs on you
Therapists should respect your spiritual, social, political, and religious beliefs. “A therapist should keep his opinions about what is right and wrong, moral or immoral, to himself,” says Paul Hokemeyer, PhD, a clinical and consulting psychotherapist. “His job is to provide a safe, contained frame for your voice to emerge rather than training your voice to join his choir.”
He talks about himself too much
Therapists sometimes talk about themselves to build a rapport. But most of the discussion should be about you. It shouldn’t be all about their stories, and thoughts, no matter how fascinating his life may be. Plus: You’re paying him to discuss you. “Whatever personal history your therapist shares should be directly related to your own issues,” says Tina B. Tessina, PhD, psychotherapist and author of How to Be Happy Partners: Working It Out Together. “It shouldn’t be random chatter taking up your valuable time.”
You don’t trust him
Therapy will only work if you trust your therapist’s abilities to help you and protect your private information. If you can’t get over your uneasiness and open up, he isn’t the right one for you. “The main point of therapy is to experiment with new ways of being with yourself and others,” says Dr. Hokemeyer. “To do this, you must feel safe, valued, seen and heard by your therapist.”
The therapist’s advice doesn’t sit right with you
If you frequently disagree with your therapist’s opinions and she’s pushing a course of action on you that you don’t like, it’s time to head elsewhere. You should want to follow her treatment suggestions. “A great therapist will be less concerned about forcing you to fit her theories and more interested in listening to your unique theory of change and making recommendations that work within that frame,” says Tom Murray, PhD, LMFT, who practices in Greensboro, North Carolina. Not that you can expect your therapist to admit she’s unwilling to follow your lead. Here are 22 other things that your therapist won’t tell you.
You feel worse after your sessions
Yes, you may occasionally feel unhappy after dredging up issues during a session. But it shouldn’t happen after every visit, and you should always feel like you’re on the path to a better place emotionally. “Therapy often brings up pain and discomfort,” says Dr. Tessina. “That’s what you’re trying to do, bring up whatever you’ve been avoiding and deal with it. But if you feel that the negative feelings are never resolved or that you’re not learning from them, it’s time for a new therapist.”
You don’t feel like you’re getting anywhere
Progress and improvement will take time. But if you’re frustrated by a lack of progress, it may be time to move on. “Early improvement is a good predictor of overall therapy outcomes,” says Dr. Murray. “Despite what a lot of therapists believe or want to believe, most people get most of the benefits of therapy within the first four to eight sessions. That’s true for most people, regardless of their diagnosis. If you’re not making progress by session six, it’s time to move on. A good therapist would have encouraged the referral, too.” Keep an eye out for the 9 signs that your therapy is working.