Updated on 11/10/2022
Therapy is meant to be a collaborative process, and whether you are in in-person or online therapy, your therapist needs to be someone you can trust. Thus, if you’re struggling to forge an honest or productive connection in your current therapy environment, changing therapists may be your best option.
While there are several benefits of therapy, it can become unproductive for several reasons. Perhaps you feel your therapist is overly judgmental, or they may just not be the right fit for you, your comfort level, or your specific goals, and needs.
Even if you and your therapist had a solid relationship in the past, they might no longer be helping you grow. If any of this rings true, it’s time to make a change. The therapy process is difficult, and you’re committing to being vulnerable and growing. There’s no time to waste if you don’t feel you’re getting as much as possible out of the relationship.
Fortunately, this guide can help. Here’s everything you need to know about how to switch therapists.
Is it Okay to Switch Therapists?
First and foremost, there’s nothing wrong with switching therapists if the care provider you’re seeing isn’t a good fit. For multiple reasons — whether it be the therapist needs to step away or it’s the patient’s choice — thousands of people change therapists every year.
“It’s totally okay to switch to a new therapist. You have a right to choose your therapist, just like any other doctor or healthcare provider. It’s important to be comfortable with your choice and feel like you have a connection with your therapist. If you feel like that’s not there, then you should try to find another therapist.”Talkspace therapist Bisma Anwar, LMHC
If the decision is yours, though, before you do anything, it can be worthwhile to consider why you want to change therapists. This way, you can make sure the change will be a positive one in your life.
It’s important to note that occasionally feeling awkward or uncomfortable during therapy doesn’t necessarily mean that you should see someone else. Therapy requires you to be vulnerable, which can be difficult at times regardless of who you’re working with. However, if you don’t feel like you can trust your therapist with your innermost thoughts, you might be right in thinking it’s time to move on.
Even if you have a good relationship with your current therapist, there are plenty of reasons you might want to make a change. For example, you may:
- Want to see someone who offers a specific type of therapy
- Need someone who offers online services
- Have experienced an awkward interaction
- Feel unsafe
- Have encountered a new trauma and need a new perspective
- Be switching from couples counseling to individual (or vice versa)
Take the time to think about why you want to change therapists, then decide how you want to proceed.
Signs You Should Change Therapists
While choosing the right therapist generally comes down to personal preferences and comfort levels, certain red flags can be signals of unethical or subpar care. Likewise, numerous other indicators can suggest a mental health care professional just isn’t right for you.
Watch out for any of the following signs that you should change therapists.
You haven’t been making progress
It’s hard to know what to expect from therapy, but while you shouldn’t expect instant results, you should feel like you’re making progress over time.
Ideally, your therapist should be tracking your progress and helping you work towards your identified goals. If you haven’t seen improvements, or if you haven’t been working towards anything specific, changing therapists may help you see results more quickly.
Except under certain legal circumstances that require therapists to contact authorities, your care is always confidential. If you have any privacy concerns, ask questions.
Too much contact
Your therapist may be crossing boundaries if you’re receiving frequent calls, texts, or social media interactions outside of your formal therapy sessions.
Of course, this can be different if you’re engaged in a text- or virtual-based therapy arrangement (such as an online therapy platform like Talkspace), but the contact rules should be clear and consistently enforced, regardless of the modality.
Too little contact
On the flip side, a therapist you can’t reliably reach is cause for concern for obvious reasons. Therapists are free to set rules about how you can get in touch with them after hours or outside of sessions, but if you’re following the rules and still can’t get your messages returned, you might need a change.
You don’t feel heard
It’s important that you feel like your therapist is really listening to what you have to say. If they’re dismissive or don’t seem to understand where you’re coming from, you might eventually begin to struggle to open up to them.
For example, some members of the LGBTQIA+ community have reported experiences where they feel their therapists don’t take their concerns seriously. This can be a clear sign of a bad therapist.
“If you’re feeling misunderstood or invalidated by your therapist, you should think of switching to another therapist. Therapy is supposed to be a healing process, and if you don’t feel heard or understood, then it will get in the way of you really being able to make progress in your therapeutic journey.”Talkspace therapist Bisma Anwar, LMHC
If there are problems with late or inaccurate billing, late or broken appointments, or any other indicators of practice management problems, consider investigating why.
Every practice has busy seasons or staff changes that can cause occasional operational hiccups, but persistent problems raise a question about whether your relationship with this particular therapist will be stable over time.
They don’t offer the services you’re looking for
Nearly all therapists have experience treating things like depression and anxiety, but some have limited experience with less common conditions, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder or some personality disorders. The types of therapy a professional offers may also vary.
If you want to treat a specific issue or are interested in a certain form of therapy, you’ll need to find a therapist who offers what you’re looking for. Your experience in therapy treatment might have been positive up to this point, but you may need to look elsewhere if your current therapist can’t provide the kind of care you need.
How to Switch Therapists
Even if you recognize several of the above signs you should change therapists and you’re confident in your decision, changing therapists can feel overwhelming. These tips will guide you through the process of how to break up with your therapist so you can seamlessly transition to a different therapist who’s a better match for you.
Have a discussion
Let your current therapist know that you’re thinking about seeing someone new. If you’re comfortable doing so, you may want to schedule a final appointment so you can talk things through. If you’d prefer not to have a face-to-face discussion, however, you can communicate that you’re leaving via text or email.
Request a records transfer
During the final session with your therapist, ask for a copy of your medical records or request that they transfer records to your new provider. While therapists aren’t legally required to share psychotherapy notes, you can ask them to send over any other records they may have.
Reflect on what didn’t work
Switching therapists is an opportunity to find someone who’s better equipped to meet your needs. That’s why it can be so valuable to think about why your last therapeutic relationship wasn’t successful. If you can identify or pinpoint any issues, you can then take steps to avoid the same conflicts going forward.
Figure out what you’re looking for
Unless you have a serious condition and need immediate help, you don’t have to rush into finding a new therapist. If possible, set aside time to determine what you’re looking for.
- Are you hoping to find someone who offers a specific style of therapy, such as acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) or types of CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy)?
- Do you need someone who can meet with you during the evenings or on weekends?
- Do you want someone skilled in a certain area, like someone with experience working with gender identity issues, compulsions, or rage management?
Making a list of your needs can help you find a therapist who meets your criteria.
Find someone new
Once you know what you want, you can explore different options and search for a therapist with the qualities you’re seeking. You may want to schedule consultations with potential therapists so you can meet with them and see if they’re a good fit.
“You can request to be rematched with another therapist through the Talkspace platform. This will allow you to start working with someone new after you are matched.”Talkspace therapist Bisma Anwar, LMHC
Find a New Therapist with Talkspace
Changing therapists doesn’t have to be a negative experience. With Talkspace, you can quickly connect with a licensed mental health care professional who’s a great match for your exact needs. Finding the right therapist can be challenging when you’re on your own, but Talkspace makes it easy to find the perfect person to help you manage any mental health condition and reach your life goals.
- Scher M. The process of changing therapists. American Journal of Psychotherapy. 2018;24(2):278-286. doi:10.1176/appi.psychotherapy.1918.104.22.1688. https://psychotherapy.psychiatryonline.org/doi/10.1176/appi.psychotherapy.1922.214.171.1248. Accessed October 17, 2022.
- Drescher J, Fadus M. Issues arising in psychotherapy with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender patients. FOCUS. 2020;18(3):262-267. doi:10.1176/appi.focus.20200001. https://focus.psychiatryonline.org/doi/10.1176/appi.focus.20200001. Accessed October 17, 2022.
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