Finding a therapist can be a challenge. Sometimes their style doesn’t work for you, sometimes they’re not as available as you need them to be, and sometimes you just can’t explain it. All valid reasons. So when you find someone you like and develop a relationship with them, it’s hard to imagine leaving them and starting over with someone else.
I’d been working with my therapist for over 2 years. She changed my life in many ways, and I will always be grateful for our time together. Not that long ago, I thought I wouldn’t ever move out of state because I couldn’t imagine leaving my therapist. Then a few months later, I willingly chose to find a new therapist because our relationship was no longer serving me the way it was meant to.
You can have lots of reasons to find a new therapist, especially if you identify bad behavior or red flags for a therapist. But as someone who thought I would be with the same therapist for the rest of my life, I wanted to share the 3 major signs I knew I needed to find a new therapist.
I felt like I was talking to a friend
Being comfortable with my therapist was important to me. I needed to feel safe enough to allow myself to be vulnerable, but you can also get too comfortable. During the later therapy sessions I had with my therapist, I felt as if she took her therapist hat off. She didn’t ask questions in the same way, and our sessions didn’t feel as challenging.
In fact, I almost felt as if I were simply venting to a friend instead of talking to a trained professional. I personally don’t want my therapist to be super clinical or stiff, but I do need them to challenge me.
We kept having the same conversation
Along the same lines, I felt like we were having the same conversation over and over. And not in the sense that I kept bringing up the same content, for example, a continuous issue with work. No, they always felt like the same conversation because every issue or concern I had, she tied back to what she believed was the root cause of it all.
That didn’t quite sit right with me, but I saw her for a few more session just to confirm my theory. And yes, everything I brought was somehow tied back to this one issue.
The thing is, I’ve definitely made progress on that issue, but I didn’t feel like my progress was seen or acknowledged. I felt as if I’d been labeled as a person with this particular issue; no matter what I did, I felt like I’d always have that label in her eyes.
It just didn’t feel right
Although from the outside, it might seem like I made my decision to find a new therapist in less than a month, it actually took much longer than that. I had several sessions that just didn’t feel quite right to me. Not that my therapist was being inappropriate or had any red flags during therapy, but I just didn’t feel good about it anymore. I sat with those feelings for quite a while to make sure it wasn’t just an off day for either of us.
After a particular session, I felt belittled and scolded, and that was really the tipping point for me.
What I did when I decided to move on
I thought about what to do for a couple weeks. I normally look forward to therapy, but as the date of our next session creeped closer and closer, I realized that I really didn’t want to talk to her or see her. And realizing that made it clear that it was time to let go.
So then what? Should I talk to her? Did I really want to spend the time and energy finding someone new? Did I owe anything to her? What did I owe myself?
My knee-jerk reaction was to just find someone new without talking to her, but I realized it was important to make an attempt at salvaging the relationship. So I worked up the courage to send her a message. I spent a lot of time composing it to ensure that I expressed my feelings skillfully without attacking her or being rude; I asked a dear friend to review it for me (who I had shared the situation with) just to make sure.
Though my therapist seemed to be equally thoughtful in her response, rather than making me feel better, her response actually confirmed a few of my theories about what was happening on her side. I thanked her for her response and let her know I would cancel the rest of my appointments with her and reach out if I wanted to talk again.
Although having that dialogue with my therapist did not change the outcome, I felt good about making that effort before closing the door. I recognize that we’re all human, and despite our best efforts, we all still have our own biases — even therapists, coaches, and other healers and healthcare practitioners.
I still hold my previous therapist in high regard, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend her to a friend. She was exactly the therapist I needed when I found her, but as we grow and change, so do our needs. Not everyone is necessarily meant to be in our lives until the end, even if we want them to be.
At first, I was not excited about getting a new therapist and starting over with someone new. My previous therapist knew all my stories, she knew all the background and I’d told her all of the difficult stories I had to tell.
But I discovered something interesting when I found a new therapist.
My story changed. Not only was I telling it differently because I’m now a different person, but my new therapist also has a completely different interpretation of my story. She’s looking at it with a different lens. After only 3 sessions, I realized that fresh perspective is exactly what I need to move forward with this next stage of life.