New Year, New Therapist: How To Break Up With Your Therapist


We need to break up!

It’s you, not me. OK, maybe I’m partly to blame too.

As a therapist, I’ve heard a lot of horror stories about people seeing a counselor that wasn’t right for them. They had no idea how to bring it up or how to end things…and consequently it usually didn’t end well.

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People will keep seeing a counselor even if it’s not a good fit

Often times they keep going out of fear or guilt, hoping that they will still be able to work through their issues despite the lack of connection.


For most people who have gone to counseling, they have seen more than one therapist.

I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve met with someone who probably should have been in counseling long ago, but, due to a negative experience with a first counselor, they avoided going back.

This post is going to explain how to break things off with your therapist.

First you have to determine what the issue is.

Is the therapist not a good fit for you?

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It’s important to feel there is a good fit with your therapist

In the very first session I usually explain to clients and family members that it’s important for the client and family to feel like they have found the right professional.  I go on to further explain that I’m not the counselor for everyone.  All counselors are not cut from the same cloth.  If that’s the case, it’s my job to get the client a referral to someone that may be a better fit.

Are they not the right fit in terms of their personality? Or their worldview? (Ie. They’re really into…fill in the blank…and you’re not.  You’re an evangelical Christian and they’re an atheist).  Now, I will point out that there’s a difference between feeling supported in your life, your choices, etc. and your wish for your therapist to support your cannibalism and heroin use.  Just because they don’t support you 100% of the time and confront you on certain areas doesn’t mean they are the wrong therapist.  I’ll further point out that doctor and therapist-shopping is common among those struggling with narcissism, substance abuse and borderline personality disorder.

Are they not the right therapist because of their training or treatment focus? Ie. You are seeking help for an eating disorder and they have no training or background in dealing with eating disorders. Or they keep bringing up your childhood and you want to focus on your present-day relationship issues.  Again, there is some therapeutic leeway here as your past can impact your present and future.  But if they lack the training in an area you require help in, then they should be able to answer that direct question and honestly, they should be bringing that up first.

Are they not the right fit because they have done something inappropriate, unethical or illegal? They are hitting on you or making you feel uncomfortable?  Are you coming in for relationship counseling and they are engaged in an affair with your partner?  Are they falling asleep in session with you?  And yes, sadly, I’ve heard of all of these happening. In the case of unethical or illegal, you have the right to file a complaint against their license with the state board they are registered with.  Every state-licensed professional is required to display their license in plain sight.

Second, you have to figure out what to do about it.

Here you have a couple of options:



Of course ghosting is always one of those options.  What I mean by that is, not showing for your last appointment, not calling and cancelling the last appointment, and not returning any voicemails from the counselors office.  For clients coming in for anxiety, this option may look particularly attractive.  But, if you’ve ever had this done to you in your dating life, then you know how it feels. Plus, it could have been an issue that could have easily been addressed.

Fix It

You can bring up the issue in an attempt to resolve it and continue forward in the therapeutic relationship.  There are a host of issues or concerns that aren’t dealbreakers and are more negotiable or personal preferences.  Bringing them to light can make things improve drastically and help you and your counselor get to the root issues that you want to deal with.

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Bringing up issues can actually strengthen the therapeutic relationship

Just because you have issues or concerns does not mean it’s a dealbreaker for you and your therapist.  Often times it can actually strengthen the therapeutic relationship.  I will frequently remind clients that I’m not a mind reader.  So if they don’t tell me there is an issue or concerns, then I’m not going to know.

End It

You can bring up the issue and explain the need to end the therapeutic relationship.

We’re all adults here. Your counselor can handle you calling up and cancelling the appointment and explaining that you aren’t going to be scheduling another appointment.

I can understand not wanting to schedule an appointment and having to pay a co-pay in order to break things off in what could be an extremely awkward 50-minute session; however, leaving a voicemail or sending an email is doable.  As a therapist, I appreciate knowing why someone has chosen to terminate services instead of just wondering if they are alive or what happened.

Third. So you’re back in the market for a therapist, now what?

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Where can you turn to find a good therapist?

With any relationship ending, you may need to take a bit of time to recover and process on your own before dipping your toe back in the therapy pool.  But don’t let a negative experience keep you from your journey to healing and happiness.

There are a number of ways to find the right therapist.  I outline it in more detail in this series of blog posts, but the basics are:

  • Check the Internet – Psychology Today & Good Therapy
  • Ask your friends and family
  • Look to your doctor or spiritual advisor

I hope you don’t need this information, and if you need the services of a therapist or social worker, I hope you find one that’s the perfect fit for you the first go around.  If not, I hope you find this helpful.

Do you have any horror stories from past therapists?

What did you do about it?

Disclaimer: The author of this post is not engaged in a therapeutic relationship with the reader and cannot give counseling advice without a confidential appointment. Readers should be sure to consult with a licensed therapist in their area or seek emergency medical attention if they are experiencing difficulty.
Stay connected




22 thoughts on “New Year, New Therapist: How To Break Up With Your Therapist

  1. Omg, I hated my first psychiatrist, back when they also did counseling (1994). I knew I needed help and left messages for 5 random doctors from the phone book. I went to the first one who called back. I was 24 at the time and didn’t realize I had the option to choose a different doctor!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I ghosted my first therapist when she started turning our sessions into discussions of her frustrated romantic life. It was traumatic for me, so I asked for a pause over the holidays and never went back. The therapist I am now seeing is a really good fit, and I am so glad I kept looking after that initial experience.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Wow! Sadly, you’re not the first I’ve heard this from. Typically, if I share something about my life with a client there is a therapeutic reason and I preface it by saying, I’m not trying to hijack their session and make it about me. So glad you found a better fit. Thanks for reading and commenting 😃

      Liked by 1 person

      • There were a lot of issues with boundaries there that I can now recognize. As much as it was not a positive experience for me, it does give me the knowledge to encourage others who haven’t had a good experience to not let that get in the way of seeking professional help that is a good fit. I appreciate your blog!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve went through so many therapists (five that lasted months, and four for only one to a few sessions). Tranferences, over-motherly figures, countertransferences, spookiness, you name it. One had multiple dogs and cats crawling over me. There was an “adulation” psychologist, one who was waaay to interested in my sex life while eating M&Ms from a gumball machine, and interrupting me for texts and calls twice per session, another who “suspended” me for mania and told my psychiatrist I scared her then only wanted to see me once per month even though I was unstable on disability. Good grief!

    I finally found my current therapist four years ago. It was slightly rocky (mostly my issues), but we made it. I trust her and have come a long way with her.

    In contrast, I’ve been with my psychiatrist for 12 years. I adore him! Actually, there was some transference love for him. Maybe still is to a very small degree, but it’s eased. He’s one of my favorite people and I’ve come a long way with him.

    As for when I’ve left therapists, some were Ghost departures, some I told them I was moving on, and one time I “Two-timed” and realized the therapist I was thinking of leaving wasn’t so bad after all. Better communication is what made that (my current 4 year long therapist) work. I’m so glad, and so is my psychiatrist.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I just found your blog – thanks for this great post!
    I could write a ton about this subject! (and have – anyone can feel free to check out my blog, which is private, but which I welcome people into!). I have a complicated mental health history and have been through a variety of unqualified and borderline unethical providers. For now I’ll just mention my first psychiatrist (who I started seeing at age 19). She was pretty aloof. She prescribed me many antidepressants coupled with low-dose antipsychotics, none of which worked, and some of which actually made things worse. She accused me of making up and exaggerating the side-effects I was experiencing (including hand and facial tremors that eventually turned into pseudo-parkinsonism which wreaked havoc on my life – almost two years after discontinuing the medication, the tremors are mostly gone, thankfully, but some still remain). When I asked her why she was prescribing a certain medication and how she expected it to help me, she would become defensive and answer, “I know from experience. I have a lot of experience.” Despite her “experience,” the medications she prescribed me continued to make me sick. Eventually, she diagnosed me with BPD, and told me that “this is a product of your personality… medications can’t fix that, and you have to want to get better” (yet she ironically kept prescribing me meds). I stayed with her for longer than I should have (a year and a half), because I was desperate and didn’t know any different, but then I had an epiphany (with the help of my current therapist) – this psychiatrist is not helping me, not taking me seriously, and I don’t have to stay with her! I did my research, found another psychiatrist, and returned to my original psychiatrist one final time (I needed a refill) and politely told her that I would not be coming back.
    I felt so empowered. My new psychiatrist is absolutely wonderful. She agrees with my previous psychiatrist on the BPD diagnosis, but has never used the diagnosis against me and was not convinced that that was all that was going on or that I was “untreatable.” After a long evaluation, she picked up on the possibility of Bipolar II and OCD. She hit the nail on the head – she put me on bipolar mood stabilizers, and my life changed within weeks.
    Now, my meds are stable and I’m still in treatment (therapy) for the BPD and OCD, thankfully with good, stable providers (finding qualified and ethical therapy providers has also been a painful journey and another story entirely, but it was worth it). Anyway, I’m so glad that I broke it off with my first psychiatrist. Living with BPD and OCD is by no means easy, but it’s amazing how much more progress I’ve made since the underlying bipolar has been treated. I am so thankful to my new psychiatrist!
    Sorry for the long comment, but I just hope that sharing this part of my story will help convince anyone who feels they are not being treated well by their mental health provider to… trust your gut, find someone who is compassionate and qualified, and don’t settle for less. It could change your life!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much for the kind words and sharing your experience. It seems like you really connected with the post, which is both good and bad haha. You bring up a great point in terms of psychiatrists as well as therapists. And for many, psychiatrist issues are worse because psychiatrists are fewer and far between sadly. Thanks for following along!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah – psychiatrists are hard to find – especially ones that will take your insurance! I got lucky with my new one. Same for therapists with a certain specialty – for example, finding a qualified DBT therapist who did the full DBT model and took my insurance was quite the feat. It did eventually happen, thankfully! 😊


  5. Pingback: Mental Health Friday #27 – Randoms by a Random

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