When to “fire” your therapist.
A couple of weeks ago Jules brought to light an important point about ending therapy in response to the post, Ending Therapy and Saying Good-Bye. She wrote,
As someone who got stuck in America’s mental health system for nearly 2 decades…I appreciate what you are saying…It was only the final therapy relationship that even mentioned that this [ending] was a goal – that I’d learn the skills to be my own therapist (figuratively speaking). I am glad she gave voice to the topic.
Just Like all fields of work there are skilled ethical professionals (the good) along with poorly qualified unethical (the bad) as well as professionals who are simply a poor fit (the ugly). You can read about ethics on Sharon K. Anderson’s blog The Ethical Therapist.
Hence, the question is, “How do you know when to break it off if therapy is not working?” Arnold A. Lazarus and Allen Fay developed a scored questionnaire to asses if it is time to leave. If you are in therapy, take the test on Lazarus’ Think Well blog and let me know what you think.
Here are my recommendations. First, you are a consumer and you pay for a service. Hence, you have the right to fire your therapist. However, if there is a pattern of firing one therapist after another, there probably is another issue, which needs to be addressed. Consequently, I encourage a client to come for a few sessions to process the decision to leave.
When it comes to leaving, be honest with yourself and your therapist about why you are leaving. It is an opportunity to develop assertiveness skills and to feel empowered. Also, it can be a sign you have grown. If you feel it is a poor match ask your therapist to give you several referrals to other therapists.
Another reason to end therapy is your problem has been resolved. Hence, every so often, progress should be assessed between you and your therapist. Stephen Borgman, the author of Spectrum Solutions blog, suggests using Scott Miller’s outcome rating scale.
One more way to assess if therapy is working for you is to evaluate how your life is improving and if you have a sense of satisfaction. To look for the red flags of a bad therapist I suggest Kimberly Key post, Is Your Therapist Re-Traumatizing You.
Finally, a different expertise is warranted. There is no way all therapists can work with all problems. Trust your intuition.
Read the series:
Part One: When to Seek Help
Part Two: Interview Questions
Part Three: Help Yourself
Part Four: Ending Therapy and Saying Good-bye
(c) 2011 Brenda Bomgardner, MA, NCC