How to Break Up with Your Therapist Without Ghosting
Two years ago, I went through a breakup with my therapist. I ghosted my therapist when I began to suspect we weren't a good fit. I started small, canceling an appointment here and there. Then I went on vacation. When I came back, I "forgot" to get in touch. But when she reached out, I felt guilty. I scheduled a session. But a few weeks later, I repeated the cycle. Finally, she stopped reaching out. We were done.
Find a Therapist You Don't Need to Break Up With
I hired my first therapist after a brutal round of steroids to treat my chronic illness, an autoimmune disorder called Behcet's, that sent me into a spiral of depression and near suicidality. I decided that this side effect of my medication was too much to handle on my own and it was time to add yet another specialist to my large team of doctors. Only this time, I needed an expert to help me regain mental health.
But no one told me what to look for in a therapist or how I should feel during my sessions. The truth was, I didn't like my therapist from the start. Looking back, I think she placed too much focus on cognitive behavioral therapy for my taste, and that's okay.
When I hired my current therapist, I made sure to give his bio a thorough read. I've become familiar with different therapeutic styles and techniques. I made sure his methods aligned with me. Next, I tell new therapists right off the bat that the first session is sort of a trial round. This makes it easier to exit early should I need to.
Not every therapist is right for every patient. But although my first therapist and I didn't click, I talked myself into staying. I told myself that my dislike was due to projection, that I wasn't giving her a fair chance. I still don't know if you have to "like" your therapist to get something out of the work you do with them. But I do know that by pushing these feelings aside from the beginning, I set myself up for an unproductive relationship and a less-than-graceful end.
Ghosting Defined and Why It's Not a Cool Way to Break Up with Your Therapist
"Ghosting" is a method used to end a relationship whereby one partner ends communication with the other without telling the counterpart that he or she is ending things. I tend to ghost, both in budding relationships but also in the case of my therapist, because I'm conflict-averse.
Unfortunately, although the avoidance of conflict can maintain civility in some cases, when you are looking to end a relationship, exiting without explanation can be harmful. The person on the other side of the relationship will rightfully be confused while they await your text or explanation. It's also not a great look -- I often come across as flakey or flat out mean.
So I've had to work on my assertiveness in these instances. Now, I summon the courage to send an exit text. Basically, I give a short explanation of why I'm breaking things off. Although this is hard to do, I remind myself that assertiveness is an important skill in any relationship.
How to Break Up with Your Therapist Nicely
Therapists are professionals. They have patients come and go. So the first thing I would do if I could redo my therapeutic breakup is to remind myself that this is likely not the first time my therapist had been dumped. In a romantic relationship, I would advise folks not to break up over email or text, but I think a written exit message is okay here. In an email, I would politely explain the reasons we weren't a good fit and wish them well.
Card, M. (2020, June 16). How to Break Up with Your Therapist Without Ghosting, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, September 29 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/relationshipsandmentalillness/2020/6/how-to-break-up-with-your-therapist-without-ghosting