Ending things with a therapist?

Anonymous said to realsocialskills:
Could you please do a post about how to politely/effectively/appropriately end a therapist-client (or doctor-patient) relationship? Like, you’re not moving on because you’re feeling better, but because of some other reason? I am looking to find a new therapist because my current one keeps forgetting which client I am/sharing personal information about other clients, and I am not sure how to tell her without being hurtful. Thanks :)

realsocialskills said:

I don’t know a good script for this — I bet some of my readers do, and I’m hoping y’all will weigh in.

What I do know is that it’s completely normal to end things with a therapist. People do it all the time, for all kinds of different reasons. You have the right to end therapy, or choose a different therapist, for any reason you want. You don’t owe your current therapist an explanation. 

If you’re working with a good therapist who just happens not to be a good fit for you, it can be helpful to tell them what’s going wrong. Good therapists understand that no therapist is a good fit for every client. Good therapists can often help you find someone else who will be a better fit. (Eg: if the problem is that you need someone with more trauma expertise, someone who has a different gender than your current therapist, someone with more experience working with LGBTQ clients, someone who takes your insurance, or something like that.). So while you’re never *obligated* to give an explanation, if you have a good therapist, it may be advisable. 

But not all therapists are good therapists. Some therapists aren’t very competent, and some therapists behave unethically. If the problem is that you have a bad therapist, giving them an explanation is less likely to help you. Bad therapists aren’t generally very good at helping you to find better therapists. If you’re ending things with a bad therapist, it’s probably better not to get into the reasons too much. You’re not obligated to explain to them what they’re doing wrong as a therapist — they’re responsible for being ethical and professionally competent. It is not your job to teach them how to be a good therapist. 

It’s also not your responsibility to take care of their feelings. If they feel hurt by your decision to end therapy, that’s their problem and not yours. Clients end therapy all the time, for all kinds of reasons. Therapists often have feelings about this — and part of what therapists are trained to do is deal with their own feelings. Feeling hurt about a client’s decision to end therapy is never the client’s problem. If therapists can’t handle that on their own, they’re expected to seek out help — from colleagues or supervisors, not from clients. (Again, not all therapists are good therapists, and some bad therapists do not handle endings appropriately.)

Anyone want to weigh in? If you’ve chosen to end therapy with a particular therapist, how have you had that conversation? What’s worked for you?