woman in an inviting therapist's office, with therapist holding a notepad

6 Signs It May Be Time to Break Up with Your Therapist

By Stacey Feintuch
Reviewed by Susan Ko, Ph.D.
June 21, 2024

Like with most relationships, it’s important to have a good fit with your therapist. And it’s equally important to act when you know a relationship isn’t serving you anymore. It’s great if you've met with a therapist, but working with one doesn't mean you necessarily need to stick with them, or even the second or third mental health professional you find, experts say.

In fact, there are some instances in which it may be more appropriate to move on—whether you’re wrapping up your time in therapy or want to find someone who’s a better fit for your needs.

Good Reasons to Break Up with Your Therapist

If you're not sure whether you should continue seeing your current therapist or search for someone new, experts recommend looking for these signs that can help guide your decision.

1. You Have to Remind Them of Your Situation

You probably can’t expect your therapist to remember your Aunt Sally’s birthday—but you shouldn’t have to recap important aspects of your personal history week after week.

“It’s a good indicator that you should move on if your therapist forgets important information about you,” says Holly S. Katz, Ph.D., clinical and training director at the Faulk Center for Counseling in Boca Raton, Florida.

In a 2021 survey by the American Psychological Association, many psychologists reported increased demand for treatment since the pandemic began, as well as increased workloads, longer waitlists, and lower capacity for new clients.

If a therapist has trouble remembering your back story, they may have too many clients and be operating beyond their capacity, says Ce Anderson, a licensed professional counselor based in Montgomery, Alabama. But this isn’t an ideal situation for you and the growth you’d like to make through therapy.

“You should feel that the therapist is getting to know you better with each advancing appointment,” says Andrew Rosen, Ph.D., board-certified psychologist and founder and clinical director of the Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders, in Delray Beach, Florida. “You should be feeling a sense of progress as the weeks and months go by.”

If not, make a note of how that may be affecting your therapy experience. Despite the pressures, you deserve adequate care and attention. If you’re not getting it, it may be time to break up with your therapist and work with someone else instead.

2. You Don’t Have the Same Goals

A therapist may not always agree with you, but they should support you and your goals most of the time (that is, provided that you’re not in physical danger). If you’re trying to patch things up with your partner after an infidelity, for example, but your therapist says that you should end your relationship, you and your therapist are not seeing eye to eye—and that’s a problem.

“A significant aspect of the healing process of therapy is feeling understood,” Katz says. “You should feel listened to and understood soon after starting therapy.”

The therapist shouldn’t be biased or judgmental about your decisions, nor is it the therapist’s job to tell you what to do. “They’re not there to give you instruction, advice, or make the decision for you,” Anderson says. “They should respect whatever choice you make. The therapist is supposed to believe that you’re the expert in your life. They’re a mirror or sounding board to get to a place of understanding.”

3. They Talk About Themselves Too Often

It’s okay if a therapist talks about their life at times. Sharing thoughts and stories can help build rapport. “The goal of a therapist sharing information about themselves with you is that they think it helps you in some way,” says Cortney Warren, Ph.D., a California-based board-certified clinical psychologist and adjunct professor of psychiatry at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas School of Medicine.

In many cases, it’s to show you that they understand your situation or that you’re not alone in how you’re feeling. “Some therapists self-disclose to help their patients understand that they may have been through similar struggles, to normalize what they are going through,” explains Gauri Khurana, M.D., a clinical instructor at Yale University School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry, who has a private psychiatry practice in New York City.

However, most of your time should be spent talking about you and your issues. “[Therapy] is about the client, not about the therapist,” Anderson says. Remember, this is dedicated time for making progress in areas that are important to you, and it should focus on that.

4. You Feel Disrespected

If you hold a personal value deeply and want to be more certain that your therapist will respect that (for example, if you’re strongly religious or politically driven), you can try to find a therapist who aligns with your values, Warren says. There are directories that can help you find therapists who specialize in working with the LGBTQ+ community, for example, or therapists of color, or therapists who practice a certain religion.

That said, your therapist should always respect your social, political, spiritual, and religious beliefs (if you have them), regardless of their own. If your therapist makes you feel uncomfortable or disrespected because of your beliefs and choices, that’s a cause for concern.

5. You’re Not Making Progress

On average, you should see a noticeable improvement in your thoughts or feelings after about three months of treatment, says Katz, who notes that progress is often not linear, either. For instance, you may notice you sometimes feel worse after diving into a difficult focus area with your therapist. “A temporary increase in symptoms like anxiety is normal and expected with increased self-awareness,” she says.

But if you feel like your symptoms are persistent and you’re not getting any better emotionally, psychologically, or socially—or even if your symptoms are getting worse—it may be time to move on to a new therapist, Katz says.

6. You Feel Like You’ve Met Your Goals

There’s also a very positive reason to say goodbye to your therapist. And that’s when you agree that you don’t need to see each other consistently anymore.

If you’ve gotten what you need, you don’t have to continue to go to treatment, Anderson says. Maybe that’s a stronger sense of self, clarity around your needs in a specific situation, or tools that can help you cope with difficult thoughts and feelings.

And if you think you’re done with therapy, tell your therapist. You can always return in the future, or you can cut back to seeing them once a month for maintenance, says Anderson.

“The goal of therapy isn’t to be in therapy forever,” Warren says. “It’s perfectly healthy to be in therapy for a time, then end it. Go back anytime there is something new you want to work on, or an old issue resurfaces.”

How to End Things on a Good Note

In the end, don’t feel pressure to stay with a therapist just because you like them, don’t want to hurt their feelings, or any other reason, Warren says: “Stay because you’re benefiting from the relationship in some meaningful way.” If you’re not benefiting from the relationship, there are respectful ways to break up with your therapist, and good reasons to have a conversation about your decision.

If you have concerns about how things are going with your therapist, discuss your thoughts with them in person. “Your desire to leave therapy might be an avoidance to go deeper into treatment,” Katz says. “A good therapist can point something like that out to you. And if it rings true, you can change your mind.”

Speaking your mind with your therapist may actually help the relationship grow, too. “See if you can talk through what isn’t feeling right about your work together,” suggests Warren. “Often, this leads to even more productive work together because you can shift whatever needs to be modified. If it doesn’t, you can always end the relationship and try to find a new therapist who is a better fit.”

If you’re going to stop therapy or change therapists, take your time with the process. “[Termination] should be conducted over several sessions to process feelings, emotions, and the transition regarding the discontinuation of the therapeutic relationship,” says Derek Turesky, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist in Boca Raton, Florida. “The therapist may also be able to help with providing a more appropriate referral.”

There’s one exception to discussing your thoughts about ending things, however: “If there is an egregious boundary-crossing by the therapist, therapy can be terminated immediately,” Turesky says.

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