There comes a time in every therapy journey when you have to decide if you should stay or you should go. It could be for a multitude of reasons: You’ve switched health insurance providers; you’re moving to a new state where your therapist isn’t licensed; Or you’ve simply realized it’s time for a change.
In the third instance, you may be tempted to ghost, but doing so can actually cause more harm than good, according to Mina B.an author, licensed therapist, and wellness coach.
“I do think ghosting is a sign of emotional immaturity because if you’re ghosting, then you’re not doing the work of learning how to manage conflict. There’s so much courage in saying, ‘I’m ending my sessions with you,’” she says. “But it can be really difficult to say because of our own emotional discomfort. We think we’re supposed to manage other people’s emotional responses, but you’re not responsible for people’s feelings. You can be mindful of how you communicate, and you can be caring of other people’s feelings, but you’re not responsible for them.”
Reflect on your current situation
Before you break up with your therapist, Minaa suggests reflecting on why you want to end the relationship and whether you’ve tried resolving those issues in therapy.
“If you’re someone who is conflict-avoidant or you’re a people-pleaser, avoidance is often the first step some people take to resolve certain issues,” she says. “But that really doesn’t resolve anything. There’s vital information and vital things you could be working through actively in therapy that you miss out on because you’re using avoidance as a tool to manage discomfort.”
If you’re uncomfortable stating your issues aloud, Minaa suggests writing out what you want to say to your therapist outside of your sessions. She offers using the prompt, “When my therapist did this, it made me feel that.”
The next step is bringing that list to a future session to share with your therapist. You could say, “There are some things I want to share with you, and I need to read it off this paper,” Minaa suggests.
Alternatively, you can send an email to your therapist and write, “I want to share some reflections from our session today that I didn’t have the courage to say in person, and this is something I’d like for us to discuss in our next session.”
“That is still you addressing conflict,” says Minaa. “No, you’re not speaking out loud to the person, but the whole point is to communicate your needs and express yourself. A very good therapist is always going to want to circle back and address your email.”
Engage in self-trust
If you’ve tried communicating your needs, and you’re met with constant pushback, then it may be time to move on.
“Where there’s a lack of safety and a lack of trust where you can sense your therapist is not willing to hear your perspective, be empathetic, or hold a safe space for you, those are all grounds for breaking up with your therapist,” he says. Mina.
If that’s the case, Minaa suggests communicating directly to your therapist by saying, “I want to end sessions with you.”
“You are going to gain so much growth from speaking up and being bold in your truth versus ghosting and never learning to communicate endings or never learning to communicate when you’re uncomfortable,” she says. “If you ghost in a therapeutic relationship, I want you to think about how it trickles to other areas of your life.”
Find a new therapist
To avoid repeating similar situations in the future, Minaa suggests doing a consultation call with a new therapist before committing to sessions to get a feel for his or her style and determine whether it’s a good fit for you. But don’t get discouraged if it takes some time to find a good match.
“Unfortunately, sometimes even after the consultation call and first session, we realize they may not fit our needs,” says Minaa. “I do understand it’s exhausting and it’s kind of like dating, but you may have to go through a few different people to find one who is the right fit for you.”