By Farah Harris, LPC

Did you know that you can break up with your therapist? Yes, it is true and you do not have to feel guilty about it. Sometimes as "counselees," it is challenging to properly evaluate your counselor based off of your own issues. Therapy can become ineffective, and yet, many people choose to stay with their therapist for various reasons such as their struggle with “people pleasing” or simply not knowing what to look for in a counseling relationship. As a therapist, it frustrates and saddens me to no end when I hear stories of counselees seeing a counselor who is not doing their job helping them. Here are few of indications that it may be time to sever ties with your therapist:

You recognize that you emotionally hold back during your sessions. Are you having consistent moments when sharing with your therapist that you hold back tears? That at every tender moment when you want to cry, you choose to restrain yourself? If this is an on-going recurrence then you are possibly not feeling emotionally safe with your therapist. Not feeling safe is a big issue that needs to be addressed because it will impede the necessary work that you need to do. Being able to feel vulnerable and authentic to self will aid in your healing and if your therapist is creating an environment that you are not feeling free to be yourself, then it probably will not be the environment for you to get your healing.

You and your therapist do not have any concrete therapeutic goals. I have heard one too many times from "counselees" that they did not have set goals with their last therapist. This always shocks me because this is such a waste of your time. If you initially are not sure of what you want out of therapy, your therapist is to ask you and sometimes help you to create those goals. Having set goals allows both you and your therapist to have a focus. I seriously doubt that you would allow a doctor to operate on you without there being a specific plan and target for the procedure and treatment. It would be foolish. Then why do the same for your emotional and mental health?

You enjoy your therapist’s company, but you are not getting any better. It is wonderful that you have cultivated a great relationship with your therapist. This rapport is imperative in the healing process, but it is not the end all be all. There is something to be said about having a therapist who is a great listener, but if they are not adding value in terms of well-thought out interventions, then more likely than not you have gained an expensive friend.

Your therapist just doesn’t get it. Unfortunately there are times when you have a therapist that just doesn’t get you. You find yourself having to repeat or restate what you’ve said so that your therapist can understand. Now don’t get me wrong, we are not always in tune, but if you catch yourself having to explain yourself frequently to your therapist (and feeling misunderstood is not your reason for coming in) it is probably creating more harm than good. Who wants to leave therapy more frustrated than when they came?

You have met your goals for therapy. Yes, there is actually a positive reason to say good-bye to your therapist. You came, you worked and you conquered! Our ultimate goal as therapists is to not see you for a lifetime. We want to make sure that we equip you with the necessary tools that will help you in life so that you can better handle the current and future issues in your life. When you have achieved what you initially came in for, it is time to go, otherwise your therapist will eventually become an expensive friend and we have already clarified that as a reason to terminate.

A therapist is like any professional that you are paying for their service. Would you go back to a doctor, consultant, or contractor if you didn’t like their service? I doubt it. So please, if after several sessions you are realizing that the therapy isn’t working with that particular therapist, please do yourself a favor and look for another one. You owe it to yourself to find a therapist that will hear you, challenge you, hold you accountable, and one that makes you feel safe. Most of us therapists have thick skins, so if you decide to move on to another one, our only hope is that you get the help that you need.