It can be a tough conversation with your therapist when therapy isn’t working for you. But don’t worry — all therapists have had those conversations with clients before! Not every client and therapist is a great fit, and sometimes our job as therapists is to help you find a better match. While rare, we’re happy to help do this when appropriate.
These conversations can feel uncomfortable for clients for the same reason that therapy may not be helping in the first place – therapeutic relationship and rapport. When you have a secure relationship with your therapist, it’s easier to address difficult topics and share your feelings. This also makes it more likely that therapy will be effective. When you don’t have that strong therapeutic relationship, it’s harder to be vulnerable. Still, it’s important to bring up this tough topic with your therapist if things aren’t working for you.
You can start the conversation a couple of ways –
“I’d like to talk about my therapy goals and progress. I don’t feel like I’m on the way to accomplishing my goals and I’m trying to understand why.”
“I don’t always feel comfortable sharing how I’m feeling and now is one of those times. This is hard for me to say, but I’m not making the progress I’d like to and I think it has something to do with our rapport.”
Once you’ve brought it up, the conversation can flow from there. Your therapist should be open to discussing what they notice about your relationship and your progress. If they’re not, we know it’s not a good fit and you should leave!
I also recommend asking your therapist for additional resources that they feel may be helpful, or if they have other ideas of treatment approaches that you may find more beneficial. If you feel you can, explain why you think therapy hasn’t been just right so far. This will help your therapist come up with other ideas.
If all else fails, you can consider letting your therapist know that you’d like to end therapy. While an explanation may be helpful for your therapist to improve what they’re offering, you don’t owe them an explanation and it is always enough to say that you’re choosing to discontinue at this time. (Remember informed consent is an integral part of therapy – you may leave or discontinue that you choose.) Your therapist may offer a termination session to debrief and wrap up your work together, and it is up to you whether you’d like to do so.
When you talk to your therapist about termination, bring it up at the beginning of a session so that you have time to talk and prepare to end the relationship. You can use this helpful language if you’re not sure what to say:
“I’ve decided that I’m going to discontinue therapy at this time.”
“Right now I feel it’s in my best interest to stop counseling, and I’ve chosen to pursue another method of healing.”
“Thank you for the time we’ve spent together and the work we’ve done – I’m beginning to feel ready for something else.”
If you’re comfortable, you can even ask your therapist for referrals for other types of treatment. I’ve had clients pursue treatments like EMDR and then return to general counseling once they completed other treatments.
You can also read my tips for getting the most out of therapy for more ideas on what to try if you feel therapy isn’t working. Ultimately, you need to feel comfortable and safe with your therapist to truly do the work. It takes time to build this relationship, but you should have a glimpse of it from the start.
More questions? Interested in a consultation? I’d love to hear from you.