Did My Therapist Just Break Up with Me?

This is an important blog post for me to write. My goal is to be able to offer a behind the stage peak at what is actually happening when your therapist, for whatever reason, decides to discontinue therapy. 

My clients deserve the best treatment possible. And if that’s not me- for whatever reason, I cannot ethically continue to charge for treatment that I know is essentially not going to work. 

I get it… It know that it is so uncomfortable. Feelings like rejection, anger, and insecurity are likely rise to the top. Therapy was supposed to be safe, right?

You thought you weren’t supposed to feel the same sh*T that shows up in the real world in therapy! And doesn’t your therapist work for you? They can’t just quit!!

I’ve been there, in both chairs in the room. I’ve been the client whose therapist ended therapy, and I’ve been the therapist who discontinues treatment. In both scenarios, I did not always see it coming. 

Endings are never easy

People have different “ending" styles. It’s something to really think about. Goodbyes, and endings are coped with differently from person to person. The way you and your therapist handle the goodbye will be largely determined by your ending styles. I’d like to think all therapists out there know this about themselves and work hard to override their “natural” instincts, but that is a little unlikely. Therefore, knowing your own style super useful. 

For example, I’m a vanisher. If I have to say goodbye to someone, I’d rather just not. When I first moved to England, I packed my bags and left early in the morning without actually saying goodbye to my family. Totally avoidant, I know.  However vanishing as a therapist would be terrible. So I don’t. I stay around, and try to offer the best goodbye possible for my client. 

Some people are never-enders, meaning it’s never goodbye. Instead, it’s a “I’ll call you later” or “we will meet up again sometime, I’m sure of it!” I understand this, its hard to say goodbye fully, and with social media these days- do we ever actually say goodbye to anyone? (this is another blog post for another day).

There are the gifters. Some people really need to have a transitional object. Cards, small tokens, presents, a casserole. Something about “giving” during a goodbye softens the blow, and lets us see the ending tangibly

Then there are the Relishers. Relishers will walk you all the way to the airport gate and stand there with you until the very.last.moment. You can imagine that goes really well with my vanisher style. 

Your goodbye in therapy is hopefully, none of the above. Hopefully, it happens maturely, with time to process the ending fully, to reflect, and to plan appropriately for the future.  This is what your therapist really wants to offer you when they end therapy.

Discontinuing treatment as a therapist comes fully and 100% from the heart of knowing that I am not the best person to help a client. It’s about keeping everyone safe, and preserving the integrity of therapy 

The particular reasons behind “why” it isn’t going to work are varied. Maybe one of us is at harm, or my competency is limited in the issue at hand. Sometimes, the therapeutic relationship no longer feels very therapeutic, and its my responsibility to evaluate if working together is going to help -or hurt. Maybe I know its time for a different form of therapy, or to let my client fly on their own for a while. 

It’s not personal. When your doctor switches your medication, or says you need to stop medications all together… does that feel personal to you? We know its about the medicine, not the people.

Once the feelings subside and you get a chance to really think about it, if your therapist ended therapy… chances are its because they had your back and want the best for you. It’s never easy for a therapist to admit incompetencies or weaknesses, but it’s the right thing to do.

Kristen Brown