There are several reasons you should say good-bye to a counselor and a few reasons you shouldn’t Let’s look at these reasons first and then the how second.
Times you should stop seeing the therapist
1. If you have made the progress you need to make.
In managed care we draw up a treatment plan. The goal is not a complete elimination of the symptoms. That would keep even normal humans in treatment forever. The goal of treatment should be to reduce the symptoms to a manageable level and to teach the client to be able to manage those symptoms in the future.
If your symptoms are under control and you feel you have the tools to live life without staying in therapy, you may be ready to move on. Ending this episode of therapy does not mean that you will never return to therapy with this or another counselor. It means that right now you don’t have a need to keep going to therapy.
2. If you are making NO progress
Ethically a counselor should stop seeing you and refer you to someone else if they can’t help you. Sometimes we counselors want so much to be helpful it is hard to see when we are not the one that can help this client.
Your bringing up the idea of ending therapy may come as a relief for your counselor who has been trying to think of a good way to tell you that you need to see someone else. Therapists do not want to abandon clients in need and it is hard for them to stop trying.
Sometimes a self-help group, peer counseling or a friend support system is what you need just now.
Reasons you shouldn’t stop seeing this counselor
1. It is getting painful or difficult to talk about your problems
Quitting therapy when the work gets hard or painful is a sure way to stay in your problem. When the work gets hard it is tempting to blame the therapist and change. It takes time for the new counselor to get to know you and you can put off really facing the issue for a while. This makes moving from one therapist to another tempting. Eventually that issue will come up again and the pain is back.
Running from problems has kept a lot of people sick. Sometimes we use drugs and alcohol or romantic encounters. Other times people just change counselors. Either way evading you issues will not get you better.
2. There will be negative consequences if you stop.
If you were court ordered or need to complete the sessions to get your license back then stopping is a really bad idea.
If you are facing consequences as a result of stopping, think carefully before you do so. This probably means there are things about yourself you do not want to face.
How do you stop?
There are oh so many ways but a few are more recommended than others. Counseling is all about the relationship and if you have been together with this counselor for any length of time you should have a good enough relationship to talk with them about this.
Most counseling relationships do not go one forever. Eventually there will be a “termination stage,” to your counseling that involves the counselor preparing you to stop coming. If you bring this up the counselor should be willing to talk about where you are in the process, what else they think you need to accomplish and how you two will go about ending the counseling relationship.
If you have given this a try and their relationship is not working you owe it to yourself to tell the counselor that. Sometimes that discussion will result in taking a new approach and you will begin to make the progress you need to make.
With an independent private practice counselor this can be as simple as saying no to another appointment and calling around to make an appointment elsewhere. If you have insurance that is paying for treatment you should talk with your insurance provider about who else can see you and be prepared to give some reason why you need this change.
If you go to a large agency they may have rules and procedures for therapist changes. You need to ask how you go about doing this. While you may need to talk with a supervisor or administration about you desire to change you should always think of this as advocating for yourself and for the care you need.
If you find this especially difficult look for a case manager or patients advocate that can help you with the process.
Making progress in counseling is about finding a provider that you can develop a good working relationship with and then about doing work. Here is wishing you the best on your process of recovery.
David Joel Miller, LMFT, LPCC
For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page . For information about my other writing work beyond this blog there is also a Facebook authors page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com .