The first time I went to therapy, I had no idea what to expect. I knew that I needed to work on my anxiety, as it was preventing me from moving forward in life. I knew that I felt stuck. But I had no idea what could be done about it.
Fortunately, my therapist seemed to know exactly what I needed. Using a combination of Psychodynamic therapy and Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), we went to work exploring the patterns I’d developed in childhood and the ways in which I could move past them.
Of course, I had little knowledge at the time of exactly what types of therapy he was practicing, and I did not need to. Change happened quickly. I experienced a transformation, learning things about myself I had never expected.
However, after about two years, I had my first major depressive episode. A year later, I had another, and a year after that, I experienced the worst of the three. It struck me then that, while my therapist had done an excellent job in regards to my anxiety, he hadn’t managed to help me confront the depression.
Leaving a therapist
If you’ve done good work with a therapist, choosing to leave them is difficult. After all, you have trusted them and they have come through. Shouldn’t you give them the benefit of the doubt?
The reality is that all therapists have their blind spots. This does not diminish the good work they have done, but it can mean that they fail to recognize what they cannot give you. While some therapists will identify stagnation and tell you that you need something or someone different, others will keep seeing you indefinitely.
So, how do you tell if you should leave a therapist? Is it ever a clear-cut decision?
Assessing your therapy
It is rarely obvious that therapy is not going in the best direction. However, you’ll never know if you don’t occasionally assess how therapy is going. Ideally, you should do this with your therapist, but it is important to take stock on your own as well. When speaking to your therapist, your instinct may be to talk up the process rather than looking at it objectively.
When you assess your therapy process, ask yourself what goals you had at the start. Look at which goals you have met and which you are still working towards. Are there any issues that you haven’t worked on at all?
In my case, I had met many goals with my therapist, but it was becoming increasingly clear that the depression was not going away. I discussed it with him, and he tried different approaches, but ultimately I needed something different that he could not give me.
Good therapists take feedback well. If you tell your therapist that you need something different, they should be open to giving you recommendations. If, however, they get defensive and try to convince you to stay, even once you have made yourself clear, you may need to take the next step on your own.
Changing therapists is never easy, especially if you have had success with your current therapist. However, it is sometimes necessary to see someone new in order to face issues you haven’t yet overcome.