When to Fire Your Therapist

The ending process of therapy is just as delicate if not more so than the first few sessions. While your time in therapy is of course completely voluntary, ending abruptly or prematurely can actually be fairly harmful for you. Just as with most relationships, the therapeutic one needs to end on a healthy note of closure for your experience to maintain a lingering positive effect. Often times those who end too soon either leave with a bad taste in their mouth or with an incomplete understanding of what therapy actually is, neither of which do you or your counselor want you to have.

Perhaps the biggest reason I suggest you not just end your time in therapy too quickly is because I want you to have a good experience. However, that being said it can frequently take a lot of conflict or discomfort before actually getting to that point. What many people don’t realize is that therapy isn’t necessarily designed to make you feel better. While that is of course an added benefit the real purpose of therapy is to help you change, more specifically to help you change something about your life. More often than not the bulk of your time (at least initially) will likely be spent focusing on the various defense mechanisms you implement (both consciously and unconsciously) and gently assisting you in not only identifying them, but also helping you understand what purpose they serve you and ultimately getting you to go forth in the world without them. The reason for this is because it is frequently those very defenses that add such distress to your daily life in the first place. As nice and understandable as that may sound, we all have our defenses in place for very good reasons: to help protect us from pain, distress, shame, fear, etc. Therefor, the removal or even mere discussion of said defenses and what lies behind them can be incredibly uncomfortable, evoking a number of negative or undesirable feelings from you as the client.

This is where many people have the desire to end therapy – the work gets too deep, too quickly, and you don’t know what to do or how to handle it. My suggestion: talk to your therapist about this. Believe it or not, the uncomfortable feelings that come up in therapy are actually the very things that are bringing you there in the first place. You know you have the right therapist for you if you can voice these feelings in a way that will be used for your benefit. If not, then you can start to entertain the idea that you may want to find a new clinician.

Furthermore, in the midst of this process you may actually develop some very intense feelings (both good and bad) towards your therapist. This is another common phenomenon known as ‘transference’ wherein the feelings you have towards your counselor may actually be largely reflective of other areas of your life (past relationships, current relationships, means of relating in general, etc.). To not bring these issues up is only doing yourself a disservice as there is so much therapeutic work to be squeezed out of these feelings.

One of the few reasons I would suggest firing your therapist on the spot is if you feel like they have done something unethical or illegal. Even if you undergo some radically life altering financial hardship and can no longer afford services at the rate you’re currently paying, most therapists will accommodate with an adjusted rate to fit your budget, especially if you two already have a good working relationship. So do yourself a favor: if you’re thinking about ending therapy (either temporarily or indefinitely) bring these feelings or concerns up with your counselor. You’ll either feel reassured to move on, or be reminded of why you haven’t yet.

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