Signs It's Time To Break Up With Your Therapist

When someone chooses to go to therapy, they're admitting to themselves that they are having a difficult time managing a part of their life on their own and need professional help. For some people, being able to do this is a big deal — especially in our culture, where mental health is still often stigmatized. So when you're lucky enough to find a therapist with whom you're comfortable and can be vulnerable, it feels great, and you don't want to lose that relationship.

But sometimes, things come along in our lives that change who we are and what we need. When this happens, it can alter some of our relationships, including the one we have with our therapist. Then we're forced to make a hard decision. "It's totally okay to switch to a new therapist," Talkspace therapist Bisma Anwar tells Talkspace. "You have a right to choose your therapist, just like any other doctor or healthcare provider. It's important to be comfortable with your choice and feel like you have a connection with your therapist. If you feel like that's not there, then you should try to find another therapist."

When a place that once felt good and secure feels like somewhere you don't want to go to anymore, it's time to make a change. That change just might be having to break up with your therapist. As much as it might be a painful reality, if the signs are there, you shouldn't ignore them.

You always leave your sessions feeling the same emotion

A lot of the time, therapy isn't a walk in the park. It's something you have to work at, and sometimes this involves feeling uneasy, as well as conflicted, confused, angry, afraid, and so many other emotions. But a good therapist helps you unpack these feelings and navigate them in a healthy way — healthy doesn't necessarily mean happy or even good, per se.

"There's a misconception, I think, that people are supposed to walk away from a therapy session feeling great and I don't think that's true," clinical psychologist Liana Georgoulis tells HuffPost. "The work is hard and sometimes you leave therapy sessions feeling challenged or drained. Stuff gets stirred up."

Granted, you shouldn't feel miserable after every session either, which is another indication that you may need to break up with your therapist. "If you're routinely leaving a session feeling worse than when you arrived, that's a red flag," psychologist Tamar Chansky tells SELF. If you experience only one emotion, then something likely isn't right. You might want to look at why you always feel a certain way and ask yourself what your therapist might be saying that doesn't shake you up a bit more and experience a wider array of emotions. 

You feel like the relationship lines are blurred

While it might seem fun to think your therapist is your buddy, it's important to remember that this is a professional relationship. Sure, you can joke around with them when it feels right, but if joking turns into gossip sessions and then into something else that feels oddly familiar, it's time to leave your therapist. Even if it's not romantic in nature and just a friendship, it's still not okay.

"The doctor-patient relationship is not a friendship nor reciprocal in nature," Dr. Christine Crawford, associate medical director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, tells Today. "It's the one time in life when you get to be selfish and only focus on yourself and your problems ... too much personal info shared by your therapist is crossing a boundary."

You go to therapy to work on your mental health, not to chum around and exchange theories on who's going to be eliminated on the next episode of "The Bachelor." If you fear you'll lose that "friendship" when breaking up, think about it this way: You don't need to pay people to be your friends and laugh at your jokes. 

Your therapist doesn't have the experience

If you look at therapy as a whole, you'll find that not only are there different types of therapy, but most therapists specialize in a certain corner of mental health. This is important. You shouldn't be in therapy with someone who isn't trained to help you with your specific needs (via Psych Central). For example, if you want to learn to manage trauma through eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy (EMDR) and your therapist is new to EMDR or hasn't worked with trauma patients, that's a major sign that it's time to end the relationship.

"If you're going home and implementing the strategies you and your therapist have been discussing for the past several sessions, and the needle just isn't moving, then it's maybe time to think about moving on," therapist Stephanie Korpal tells Bustle. "A conversation about what your goals are and the obstacles you've been feeling could help you grow in the relationship. And because they know you fairly well at this point, he or she could give you some good referrals to another therapist to take you to that next level."

A therapist that is the right fit for your needs should have a skill set that matches what you need —  after all, you may "require someone with more targeted training and experience," clinical psychologist Dr. Kamran Eshtehardi tells Forbes. Your therapist may even know when it's time to let you end things with them, even if you haven't realized it just yet. 

Your therapist has their own agenda

Your therapy session should always be about you and how you can work towards managing your mental health issues. At no point should it be about your therapist, their beliefs, their values, or anything else even remotely similar. When a therapist brings these things into the equation, it may lead to judgment and a lack of trust, which can hinder your therapy session (per OpenCounseling). 

"A therapist's job is to support you, listen, and provide tools to help you heal ... A therapist is supposed to help you determine what's best for you," therapist Sarah Rollins tells Time. "You bring everything to the table, and they don't say, 'Well, based on what you said, I think it's best that you break up with your partner.'" Your therapy session isn't a place for your therapist to share their opinions.

Telling you what they "think" or "believe" you should do is never appropriate. You're supposed to think for yourself and make choices based on what you learn in therapy from them. The second your therapist starts bringing their opinions and agenda into the session, it's time to bail.

You're not making progress

According to Growing Self, "Within two or three sessions, your therapist should develop a game plan for how they can help you." What do you want help managing? How long do you expect to stay in therapy? What kind of hours can you devote to it, weekly or monthly? Having general answers to these questions is a good starting point so you and your therapist can work together to achieve those goals.

While occasional plateaus in therapy can happen, plateaus that last and last may indicate you've "outgrown" your therapist (via Talkspace). "Both patient and therapist may get comfortable enjoying the exercise of talking repetitively about emotional issues week after week and year after year," licensed psychologist David Kupfer tells Shape. "Old-school therapy was expected to go on forever, but modern therapists are teachers inviting patients to drop in, learn coping skills, and then go out and apply them in real life."

If you realize that you're not making progress, that doesn't say anything negatively about you or your therapist. It just suggests that your professional relationship has run its course, and it's time to seek a therapist who's a better fit for this juncture in your life — or maybe it's time to take a break from therapy altogether. Taking breaks from therapy isn't uncommon and can allow patients to gain some perspective before diving back in again. After the breakup, see where your intuition leads you, then follow.