Dear Therapist..."I'm Thinking About Ending Therapy"
I’m thinking about ending therapy. I had high hopes when I started – I thought my therapist really understood me and I was making some good progress. But lately I feel like I’m just going in and reporting what happened during the week like I would do with my weekly phone call with my parents. No more, no less. And I don’t even feel motivated to do this anymore as it doesn’t seem like she’s providing much guidance. So sometimes I don’t say anything, then end up sitting there getting increasingly frustrated my therapist also isn’t saying anything. Surely this isn’t worth my time and money anymore! How does one ‘break up’ with a therapist?
Frustrated in Therapy
It sounds like you’re feeling pretty stuck in your therapy after early inroads. This is quite common, and need not be a sign you should end it with your therapist. In fact, working through the difficulty is likely to be beneficial to your process. I wonder if you have spoken openly to your therapist about your frustration, giving it ample time for exploration in session? If not, this is unquestionably a good subject to bring into the room.
Therapy is a relationship and, as in any relationship, it is good if we can talk about it when something’s not working for us. In my own practice, these types of conversations have almost inevitably led to a deeper sense of understanding and connection between myself and the client. In this way, the therapy room provides the opportunity for practicing one of the great life skills – working through relationship challenges.
Also as in other relationships, the therapeutic one is co-created. Accordingly, I wonder if you’ve examined your role in what transpires (or doesn’t) in the room. A few things to consider:
- Sometimes when the session content feels superficial like you describe it can be avoidance of more difficult emotions. Ask yourself whether this might be the case in your situation. What might you be avoiding, or afraid to feel?
- I’m curious about the timing of things deteriorating. What was happening just before? Were there any breaks (holidays, etc)? Ruptures? Times you felt misunderstood or let down by your therapist? Any of the above can lead to pulling back from the relationship, protecting from further disappointment or even fears of abandonment.
- What about this relationship feels familiar? Might there be a pattern playing out? One example (and it is just an example given how little I know about you) is whether you find yourself entering relationships with unrealistically high expectations, putting the other on a pedestal they will inevitably fall off, thus disappointing you? Or perhaps there is mother transference going on as you point out the similarities between the therapy conversations and those with your parents? Explore any threads or links between the therapeutic relationship and what you’ve experienced elsewhere.
Finally, I’ll mention the delicate balance that therapists try to achieve in the work – providing enough support for clients to feel held and accompanied without explicitly leading the process. Often times, clients want the therapist to be more active, even provide direct advice. While the desire to have some ‘outside expert’ guide the way through challenging terrain is understandable, this approach, if too heavy-handed, can ultimately keep clients from honing their internal compass. What can seem ‘withholding’ on your therapist’s part may be well-intentioned, and ultimately beneficial to you!