While many articles, like this one, focus on ways to know that you need therapy, far fewer discuss how to know when you are ready to end treatment. Perhaps, that is because it’s a complicated question, full of twists and turns, but not to worry! We are here to help you sort it all out!
First, consider the reason that you entered therapy in the first place. Were you experiencing an acute problem, like anxiety or depression? If those feelings have abated, and you now have new coping skills to help you through difficult situations, then you may be ready to fly solo. However, most of the time, while working through those difficulties, underlying factors will emerge, and peeling through those layers could take much longer.
Next, ask yourself, why are you considering terminating therapy? Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Carol Gould notes that she often observes clients wanting to end therapy three or four months into the process. Gould states that while clients often cite reasons like financial stress or scheduling difficulties, there is often more to the story. While she acknowledges that finances and schedules can be part of the picture, Gould points out that it is usually around three or four months in when clients start to feel more dependant on their therapists, and for people who were neglected or abused as a child, this can be extremely threatening. Of course, these fears are unconscious, so Gould recommends exploring these issues with your therapist before you decide to quit.
It might sound like we are advocating for lifelong therapy here. We aren’t! Well, unless that’s what you want. Some people choose to continue with a therapist even after they have worked on whatever issue brought them into therapy. For those people, therapy can be more about continuing to learn about oneself, rather than solving a particular problem.
Others, choose to skip in and out of therapy depending on what is going on in their lives. When profound milestones hit, like, marriage, children, divorce, or retirement, these folks may choose to re-enter therapy with either their old therapist or someone new.
This brings us to our next point: How do you know when it’s time for a new therapist? This question is actually more clear cut than the last. According to Courtney Stivers, Ph.D., here are 5 signs that you need to find a new provider:
- You don’t have a strong connection with your therapist
- You are not getting better or noticing an improvement in symptoms
- Your therapist doesn’t have good boundaries
- The focus of your sessions is on your therapist and not you
- Your therapist shows up late or cancels on you frequently
Bottom Line: There is no right or wrong time to terminate therapy. If you feel that you are ready, it’s worth giving it a try. You can always go back if needed. On the other hand, if you like the weekly push to work on yourself, then don’t rush yourself out of it! Either way, just don’t stick with a therapist who doesn’t meet your needs. No matter what style of therapy you or your therapist prefers, the number one predictor of positive outcomes is in the therapeutic alliance, or the relationship between you and your therapist. If it doesn’t click, don’t let that scare you away from therapy, but use that experience to refine what you are looking for in a therapist.
If you’d like to talk more about when and how to start, end, or transfer therapists, contact us! We are here to help!