In the last blog, I brought up how to tell if your therapist isn’t a good match. This week it’s all about how to break up with your therapist while making sure that you're getting closure. Many clients ghost therapists or leave without a closing session. Termination or goodbye sessions are an amazing way of finding closure, working through what it means to say goodbye (if you’ve ever ghosted someone, you might struggle with saying goodbye), and to move forward with clean energy and honest feedback.
Here are some thoughts on how to break up with your therapist:
1. Talk to your therapist about how your needs aren't being met (we can handle it).
You'd be surprised how much therapists really truly want to know what went wrong in a session. We are trained to hear all feedback with open ears and to not let our own defenses show up. Bringing up difficult things to your therapist might even be a teaching tool for you especially if you struggle with conflict avoidance.
2. Ask your therapist what styles of therapy they have been using and if they would recommend a different style of therapy for you moving forward.
It could be that your therapist is just only trained in and using certain modalities that aren't necessarily a good fit for your needs. This is always hard to come to terms with but talking it through with your therapist can help you find a therapist who has training in modalities that might make therapy less challenging and a better fit for you.
3. If your needs still haven't been met, ask to schedule a termination or goodbye session at least one day (ideally one or more weeks) in advance so that they can prepare.
I know it can be hard to come to terms with breaking up with a therapist and feel very uncomfortable. I can't tell you just how important scheduling a break up or termination session is for you and finding a sense of closure and peace. While you might not consciously realize it, our bodies collect all energy from past relationships and have the tendency to feel unsettled until we say goodbye or find closure. If you struggle with saying goodbye, this can be even more difficult and if you feel safe to do so, this could be a good time to process what and why goodbyes are hard.
Therapists need plenty of time to be able to give your goodbye session the closure and consideration it deserves. We simply can't prepare a termination that comes out meaningful without advance warning. Let us know and we can help navigate this important session with and for you in a way that feels meaningful.
4. Therapists are humans who worry about you and your physical safety- please don't ghost us!
Just.. don't. I know, I know... If you've read my blogs you'll see that I've ghosted my therapist in the past. But hear me out. I still hold onto that energy. Several years and huge life changes ago and it still comes up from time to time. Your therapist worries about you even if they aren't a good match. At the very least, you can send them an email stating that you won't be making sessions anymore and that you're physically safe. Then go schedule yourself a new therapy appointment and work through it. Ghosting isn't just rude (therapists can handle rude btw), but it's a window into some clinical information about you. Ghosting is a fear and a way of holding power or control over someone when no harm has been done from the other party. Don't not ghost for us. Do it for yourself and grow from what you learn.
5. Give your therapist feedback.
What was helpful? What was unhelpful? What will you take with you? Are there any negative memories or bad energy that happened in your sessions? Now is the time to air it out so you don't take it with you when you're done.
6. Engage in a goodbye ritual either in the termination session with your therapist or afterwards on your own.
Here's an example of a closure ritual you can practice on your own: Find a safe, quiet spot in your house and light a candle. Scan your body and observe all of the positive energy, space, and growth you made while in therapy. Fully embody these positive sensations in your body. Next, scan for any negative energy, bad memories or emotions that you don't want to take with you moving forward. Imagine yourself funneling these things into the flame and watching them burn away. When you are done, honor yourself and the investment you made to yourself and your mental health and blow out the candle.
Your body is your most important teacher. Sometimes we struggle with knowing cognitively if our therapist is a good match so here’s a list of ways to check in with your body. This list is for clients who have been going to therapy for at least 2-3 sessions but there are ALWAYS grey areas. If you’re feeling some or all of these and have trauma, see if you can bring to mind a safe person and imagine how their presence feels in your body. Ideally, this person should bring a sense of openness, expansion (like you want to lean in), or groundedness. Consider using your awareness of your safe person as a way to compare to your therapist somatically.
Sometimes it can take a while to feel safe with a person. If you know this is you and you need time, keep that in mind here. But if you’ve been going to a few sessions and still feel this way, it might mean you aren’t a good match. Your body might be telling you something important. Somatic expressions of safety and comfort are just as, if not more, important as cognitive measures.
Here's a list of ways you can check in with your body when evaluating whether or not your therapist is a good fit for you:
1. You frequently feel like you dissociate or leave your body in sessions.
If you're giving your therapist feedback about this and it's still happening, you might want to pay attention to what your body is trying to tell you. We escape our bodies when we don't feel safe. If we don't feel safety with someone while also sharing major parts of our lives, we could retraumatize ourselves.
2. You feel disconnected from your whole self for most or all of the session.
Similar to what was mentioned above. Give feedback to your therapist. It could be that you are picking up on something your therapist is projecting onto you or maybe an old defense or protective part of you is showing up. If you've tried working through this with your therapist to no avail, trust your gut. Therapy is most effective when we feel like we can be ourselves and not hide.
3. Your body feels pulled inward or constricted when you imagine your therapist in front of you.
Again, listen to your body. If your body is constricting most or all of your sessions together, it probably isn't a coincidence.
4. It takes several days after most or all sessions to get back to feeling grounded or whole.
It's normal to have a therapy "hangover" for about a day, sometimes two when we first start therapy or when we've had a big session. What's not normal is when we feel this way after all of our sessions or if the hangover lasts for multiple days, causing other parts of our life to become disrupted. It could be that your therapist needs to give you some time at the end of each session to ground before leaving. Bring this up at your next session but if things don't improve, you might want to search for someone who can move at a slower pace.
5. You don't feel a sense of relaxation, expansion or forward movement either in your sessions or afterwards.
Therapy is hard work but we do it because of the reward at the end. If you're not noticing any positive sensations in your body or never feel a sense of relaxation or expansion either in or after your sessions, pay attention and give feedback to your therapist. You should feel some sense of relief or expansion in your body when you're working with a therapist who is a good fit.
6. Imagining your therapist in front of you doesn't bring a sense of warmth or openness in your body.
This one is self-explanatory but goes without saying. If you try this out, notice what your body wants to do without judgment. Pay attention to the wisdom your body has to offer.
One of the most common reasons clients start therapy is out of a fear that they keep dating the wrong person. Most of these women are highly intelligent, have supportive friends, jobs and in all other aspects of their life, are doing great... but the closer they near 30... then 35... then 40, failed relationship after failed relationship, the more the thoughts begin to swirl. "Is there something wrong with me?", "Am I attracting the wrong kind of person?", "Should I just give up on love?"
Let's set the record straight off the bat. No, there is nothing wrong with you and you are not broken. I know I probably don't know you but even so, it's the truth. We all have what's called an attachment style and it is heavily based off of the relationships we had to our caregivers and/or traumatic relationships and experiences that happened during our development. While these things determine how we love and who we are attracted to, it doesn't mean you are broken or unable to have a happy, healthy relationship (if that's what you want). While there's no way I could actually cover all of these concerns directly without having met you in a therapy setting, I've made a list of questions to consider if you feel like diving in to understanding yourself in relationships.