We’ve all been told that breaking up is hard, but it doesn’t have to be. A therapist is there to support you and help you confront difficult emotions — they might even be the best person to have an uncomfortable conversation with. Even with their best intentions, no therapist is a good fit for everyone. Learn the signs that it’s time to end the relationship and how to do so smoothly.
Signs it might be time to break up with your therapist include a lack of progress, mismatch in therapeutic approach, discomfort, or feeling like they’re more of a friend.
Embrace the breakup and take it as part of the healing process. An honest conversation, even if difficult, can help you learn how to do the same in other relationships.
Being open about your experience can also help the therapist improve for others.
Always be clear about what you’re looking for and what worked or didn’t work in the past.
Be patient as you look for a new therapist — finding the right fit takes time.
Signs that you need to break up with your therapist
We often keep seeing a therapist we’re not sure about in hopes that the investment will one day pay off. Except, it might be smartest to cut your losses and move on instead.
Here are some of the most common reasons why it might be time to stop seeing your therapist:
1. You feel disappointed after sessions and aren’t growing
If you still feel stuck after sessions and aren’t getting actionable advice that’s helping you move forward, it's likely a red flag. Some of the main goals of therapy are to help you break unhelpful patterns, develop coping skills, feel better, and move toward your goals. If that isn’t happening, your therapist might be more of the listening type rather than the listening and ‘let’s take action’ type.
If you’ve just begun seeing a new therapist and are wondering how long to give them a chance — trust your gut. If no improvement has been made within a few sessions and you’re still not sure it’s a good fit, even though you’ve been clear about your needs, it’s probably time to keep searching.
2. Their approach doesn’t work for you
Every therapist has a unique background and specializes in different disorders, using different methods and models. On top of that, their personality can play a big part in how they approach therapy. Some people prefer more of a bold and action-oriented style, while others might want a more nurturing touch.
There’s also the model to consider. For example:
- The problem-solving Brief Therapy model focuses on the here and now with practical goal-setting to break patterns and move you forward.
- The Emotional Freedom Technique, on the other hand, leans more toward increasing awareness of your feelings.
- The Psychoanalytic therapy, which comes from Freud, believes disorders are rooted in the past. That means your therapist will likely dive back in an attempt to find 'insight.'
Each of these models is going to offer a very different style of therapy and affect your progress. For example, if your therapist keeps dredging up the past to help you find 'insight' when what you currently need is a problem-solving-action-oriented goal, you might feel worse.
While looking into the past to understand patterns is sometimes helpful, any insight gained isn't necessarily reliable, nor does it always help you heal or push you forward. Instead, it might open wounds that are best left closed for the moment since they can leave you feeling more hopeless or stuck in the past. Overall, it's a fine line that a good therapist should know how to balance.
3. It feels more like a gossip session
It’s not uncommon to hear people say that they’ve been going to their therapist for years — but if it’s about the same problem, it might be time for a change.
Maybe you like talking to them and believe they’re a good person, but a therapist isn’t there only to listen. When the moment is right, they’re also meant to offer actionable advice to steer you toward growth.
Your therapist should be a catalyst for change, not just a sounding board for the daily grind.
So, if your sessions are feeling like catch-ups over coffee instead of constructive meetings, the professional boundaries might be getting blurred. While a therapeutic alliance where you trust and like them is essential, they should still feel like a therapist, not a friend.
4. You don’t feel fully comfortable to share
If something keeps holding you back from telling them the whole story, it might be a sign that you don’t feel comfortable. Maybe you're feeling like they don't understand you, or you're getting vibes that they're throwing you a pity party instead of offering real help.
It could also be a nagging feeling that they might judge you if you told them the whole truth. Plus, there are the nuances of your cultural or ethnic background that they just might not get.
Whether or not they’re crossing any boundaries, if you don’t feel fully comfortable with them, it’s time to either talk about it or move on.
A good therapist should offer a safe, non-judgmental space where all your innermost thoughts and emotions can be laid out in the open. Trust is the foundation of any therapeutic relationship, and without it, you might be censoring yourself to the point where you can't get the full benefits of therapy.
5. Your needs have changed
A successful therapeutic journey often leads to an ending. Maybe you've gained the tools needed and feel comfortable handling life's stressors on your own.
On the other hand, it could also just be time to try another approach to manage a new challenge you’re facing.
It's also possible to outgrow your therapist, just as you can outgrow a life stage or personal belief. This feeling can be a sign of progress, showing emotional awareness.
In the end, you don’t always need a good reason to stop seeing your therapist — not feeling sure is enough.
How to tell your therapist you’re leaving
Your therapist is likely one of the best people to break up with. They know they’re not the best fit for everyone, and they’ve been trained to manage the ending of a relationship.
Even so, telling them your time together has come to an end might feel intimidating. Here are some tips on how to let them know:
Plan how to break the news
How do you want to tell your therapist you want to stop seeing them? Do you want to let them know in person, by email, or by text?
If you’ve been together for a while, seeing them face to face and talking it out might offer the most closure. The uncomfortable act of breaking up might even help you learn to have these difficult conversations with others.
Prepare what you want to say
It’s not always easy, to be honest — most of us are afraid of hurting someone else’s feelings. Just remember that therapists were trained to handle constructive criticism. They’ll still be on your side since they only want the best for you. Plus, telling them exactly what worked and what didn’t might help them be a better therapist.
Discuss the next steps
Your therapist can be a valuable resource in your transition. If you're looking for someone new, you can ask for a referral. They usually have a network of colleagues, and they might know someone who could be a great fit for you.
With your consent, they can also speak with your new therapist and pass on your background information. That might help if you're dreading starting from scratch with someone new.
However, it can be best to go in as a blank page as you move forward. A new therapist can have a totally different outlook on your situation, capabilities, and treatment plan. They may see your strengths rather than a label. Even therapists can get tunnel vision and put people in boxes, limiting their capacity to see you in a new light and offer different advice.
In the end, remember that just because you haven't found the right fit yet doesn't mean you won't. Matching with a therapist that suits your unique needs and personality takes time. But once you find them, they’ll have been well worth the wait.
- Clin Psychol (New York). Brief Therapy Based on Interrupting Ironic Processes: The Palo Alto Model.
- Frontiers in Psychology. Emotional freedom techniques for treating post traumatic stress disorder: an updated systematic review and meta-analysis.
- Encyclopedia of Psychotherapy. Psychoanalytic Theory.
- National Institute of Mental Health. Psychotherapies.
- World Psychiatry. Harnessing the potential of the therapeutic alliance.