The same thing extends to your relationship with your therapist. Unfortunately, even when therapy isn’t going well with your current therapist, you may prefer to blame yourself for being too picky, cram your feelings down to avoid conflict, and keep treading to avoid change.
As a psychiatrist, I constantly hear from patients who don’t really think it’s working out with their current therapist, yet rationalize continuing sessions with the same person.
Common things I hear include:
-“My therapist is good enough.” (After telling me that they’re getting nowhere in therapy)
-“At least I have someone to talk to.”
-“I don’t want to start over with a new person and explain myself all over again.”
-“I don’t want to hurt his/her feelings.”
Alright. Now, let’s say things still aren’t working out.
You may know the following logically, but have difficulty accepting it:
You have a right to end therapy. You are exchanging payment for a service (med management or therapy). If the service is giving you no value and draining your energy, bank account, and time…why continue?
Yes, why continue in this painful situation? Some reasons:
-Avoidance of awkwardness: Goodbyes are often uncomfortable. There’s an expectation that you have to say something profound or touching, and maybe you don’t have words for that. Or maybe you don’t feel that the experience was that impactful, but you struggle to sugarcoat your words.
-Not wanting to offend: We lack assertiveness and put other people’s needs above our own, because we want to be liked and accepted. It may help to ask yourself, “What’s the point of being liked by this person, who I’ll never see again when I eventually end therapy?” Also, “Are my needs and feelings less important than my therapist’s?”
-Fear of the unknown: We often prefer a less-than-ideal situation to one we can’t even visualize or predict. So when we’re saying goodbye, we may be questioning whether we’re making the right choice.
1. It helps your practice setting boundaries, in a low-stakes situation.
Saying goodbye to your therapist teaches you how to share your feelings in a relationship assertively, rather than being passive or aggressive. You will probably think a lot about what to say to your therapist.
At the same time, the stakes are low.
At the end of the day, he or she is a professional who is trained and paid to deliver therapy to you. There is no obligation to continue your relationship with this person, and you will most likely never see him or her again if you end the relationship.
Think about how this experience could benefit you in the future, in any relationship you can think of: With your romantic partner…a difficult family member…a boss or coworker…the list goes on! You can use the same thought process that you use to “break up” with your therapist to deal with those future situations.
2. It validates your needs and feelings.
Saying goodbye to your therapist will show you that he or she (if professional and trained appropriately) will take your concerns seriously, and communicate with you in hopes of understanding your point of view. After having your concerns validated, you will likely be relieved and less anxious about the whole process.
3. It gets you comfortable with goodbyes.
You will be more likely to view future “conflicts” or goodbyes as mere conversations, rather than a fight or permanent severing of a relationship waiting to happen. It will also help you recognize when a relationship might not be so healthy, ie. if the other person does pick a fight or end the relationship over a disagreement.
4. The relationship might not have to end.
If you and your therapist are able to work things out, you may come to a new understanding and appreciation for him or her, and decide that staying is the best thing for you after all. This is best for all parties involved. It also teaches you that being assertive about your needs can actually strengthen and deepen your relationship with another person.
Now, I want to address the advice given in every other article online: “Don’t ghost your therapist.”
I say: If you have to, DO ghost your therapist. Do it for yourself!
Let me explain. Obviously, ghosting isn’t ideal. But nobody’s perfect. If you’ve mulled it over for a while and still really aren’t comfortable with being direct about your goodbye, I encourage you to leave therapy on your own terms. In the end, you’re still honoring your feelings and your gut instinct. You’re choosing to leave a situation that’s not serving you, but rather draining you. This is good practice for similar situations in the future, when you’re searching for the confidence and willpower and combating guilt in order to stand up for yourself.
-It’s your right to find a therapist who is a good fit for you.
-Therapists are trained to deal with these situations, and it will almost certainly not be their first time.
-If the therapist takes it personally, that’s on them, not you.
-You are not responsible for someone else’s hurt feelings when you express your needs.
-This is a safe opportunity to practice asserting yourself.
Comments, thoughts? Feel free to post below!
Disclaimer: All blog content is intended for information only, and should not be considered a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Using, accessing, or browsing this website does not create a physician-patient relationship between you and Dr. Masifi or any site contributors.