7 Signs It’s Time To Break Up With Your Therapist

eatif a therapist being available and affordable can feel like such an achievement that, once it finally happens, giving up can seem like a waste of time and effort.

But research consistently shows that having a good relationship with your therapist is essential if you want to see results. And like any partnership, not every match will be right. That’s why mental health professionals suggest paying attention to the warning signs that your therapist isn’t a good fit—and then speaking up instead of picking it apart.

“You’re going to be vulnerable and sharing things with this person,” says Traci Williams, a clinical psychologist in Atlanta. “The nature of the relationship requires you to feel safe and secure.”

Sometimes when a problem arises, you and your therapist will be able to find a solution and the situation will improve. But it’s also okay to leave, Williams says. You can approach your exit in a few different ways: If you don’t feel comfortable discussing why you’re ending the relationship in person, you could notify your therapist via e-mail that you won’t be coming back. If you feel like you can handle it, “it’s helpful to have a brief update of what happened,” she says. Doing so can be valuable to the therapist, and practitioners are often happy to offer referrals to providers who may be a better fit.

Here, mental health experts outline seven red flags that your therapist may not be right for you.

1. They reject your reality for racism, sexism, ableism, fatophobia, or homophobia.

Your time and energy in therapy “shouldn’t be spent proving that your experience is valid,” says Kate O’Brien, a licensed therapist in New York. He gives this example: Imagine a black man tells his therapist that he felt like he was being followed closely in a store—which could indicate racism—and the therapist responds, “Oh, I’m sure that person didn’t mean it that way. .”

If your therapist dismisses your experiences in such a way, defends the perpetrator, or goes into victim-blaming mode, it’s time to move on, O’Brien says. You are not obliged to give any explanation – “it is not your job to educate other people”. But doing so could prompt the therapist to engage in some delayed self-reflection, she adds.

2. Your therapist lacks the relevant skills.

Depending on why you are seeking treatment, it may be helpful to work with someone who has specific training, experience, and expertise. Williams recalls a recent TikTok video in which a woman explained that she suffers from complex post-traumatic stress disorder, often abbreviated to c-PTSD. After reviewing the woman’s paperwork, a potential new therapist said, “They put a ‘C’ before the PTSD diagnosis. I’ve never heard of it – it must be wrong.’ Obviously the two didn’t match.

Sometimes there’s a misconception that therapists are generalists, like primary care doctors, says Sarah Rollins, a therapist in Michigan. And while it’s true that most practitioners can deal with mild depression, anxiety or stress, she notes, some conditions and symptoms require more specialized training. Giving up on that “is actually an injustice to you as a client, because now you’re going to be in treatment longer and you’re going to be frustrated because you’re not getting better,” he says. You can search for a therapist with relevant skills by applying specific filters to online directories, such as the one run by Good Therapy. Most therapists also list their specialties on their website.

3. The focus is not on you and your needs.

It’s not self-centered to expect sessions to focus on your own feelings and experiences, Rollins says. “A therapist’s job is to support you, listen to you, and provide tools to help you heal.”

But she hears about the opposite—therapists who talk only about themselves, their marriages, their financial pressures—more than you’d expect. “It happens all the time,” he says. “It’s one of my biggest pet peeves.”

If it’s yours too, Rollins suggests discussing the matter this way: “Would it be okay if we focused more on me, rather than what’s going on in your life?”

4. They promote their own agenda.

Let’s say you tell your therapist that you’ve decided to cut ties with your toxic family, and he or she immediately dismisses the idea and says it’s the wrong move. Take this as a sign that it may be time to seek care elsewhere. As Rollins points out, a therapist’s job isn’t to give advice—that’s one of the things that sets them apart from life coaches. “A therapist is supposed to help you determine what’s best for you,” she says. “You bring everything to the table and they don’t say, ‘Well, based on what you’ve said, I think it’s best that you break up with your partner.’ Keep this tenet in mind: A good therapist will provide you with the tools to find a path forward, rather than unilaterally telling you what to do.

5. You don’t feel like you’re making progress.

Immediate results are not realistic—treatment does not work overnight. As Rollins puts it, you wouldn’t expect to get six-pack abs from one or two hits at the gym.

That said, if you don’t feel like you’re making progress after a few months, talk to your therapist about what might be holding you back. Ask them about their expectations and goals and make sure you are aligned. Delayed progress “could mean the therapist isn’t right for you or that there are other stressors getting in the way,” Rollins says, so it’s important to talk about it.

6. Your therapist always cancels—or delays for years.

Sessions will inevitably need to be canceled or rescheduled at some point along the way. But if your therapist is consistently a no-show, it could interfere with your treatment, Rollins says.

Address the situation by letting your therapist know that you hoped to meet weekly or at some other agreed-upon frequency. Then say, “I notice that’s not happening. Is there a way to have more consistent dates?’ Rollins suggests. This will likely be more productive than explicitly calling them to cancel, which could make them feel defensive.

Likewise, if your therapist is always late, bring it up and see if it improves. Mention that for the last three sessions, you arrived 15 minutes before them, and since you value your time, you hope they do the same.

7. He or she crosses a line.

Ethical violations are unacceptable. This includes a therapist asking to see you outside of a session, texting you frequently and casually from their personal phone number, touching you, and making comments about your body or appearance, Williams says.

“If your therapist is starting to feel more intimate than a professional relationship, there’s probably something going on there,” she adds. “These things happen more often than people know” and may require a formal complaint to be filed.

Violating privacy is also unethical. As O’Brien points out, therapists working with adults are required to keep sessions confidential unless the client may pose an immediate danger to themselves or others. “You should feel comfortable that your therapist isn’t sharing it with other people,” she says. “And if it is, that’s a huge red flag.”

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