One Question To Ask Before You Fire Your Therapist…

Are you ready to fire your therapist? If you’re like a lot of therapy clients, you’ve invested significant time, money, and emotional energy into the therapy process, hoping that your life will improve in some important way.

That said, if you’re reading this article, you may be feeling stuck in therapy. Maybe you’ve seen some progress or improvement, but not as much as you envisioned. Maybe your therapist said something that is really bothering you. Maybe you used to feel a strong connection with your therapist and that connection has waned in recent weeks.

Whatever your experience has been, I have a question that might be worth asking yourself before you stop working with your therapist. Regardless of what your answer to the question is, if you decide to leave your therapist in the dust, I encourage you to consider sticking with therapy in general.

It may be the case that another therapist could help you in ways that your current therapist could not. Or, perhaps you’ve simply gotten the majority of what you’re going to receive from the work with your current therapist and are now experiencing the “law of diminishing returns.”

If this is true for you, it might be helpful to move on and either try proceeding without a therapist’s support, or seeking out another clinician who works from a different perspective (e.g. cognitive-behavioral therapy, emotion-focused therapy, EMDR, etc.), is a different sex/gender/age/race than your current therapist, or is different in some other way. Sometimes shaking it up can be helpful.


Before you decide to call it quits, I want you to ask yourself a very important question that I’ve learned to ask after 15 years as a therapist.

“Is the reason I find myself wanting to leave therapy the very reason that I need to stay?”

Okay. Let me be ultra clear that this is not meant to be a gaslighting, blaming/ shaming/ guilting attempt against you! If you think you are being harmed or exploited by your therapist, it’s probably time to leave!

Certainly, there will be cases in which the therapist has acted inappropriately, unethically, etc. Many of these instances may be clear grounds for a complaint to the therapist’s respective licensing board, but thankfully these tend to be rare, and involve egregious acts like insurance fraud and sexual misconduct.

I don’t know you or your situation, but I have worked with many clients over the years who were so close to making what some people might call a “breakthrough” if they had only continued to press on when they hit a wall in therapy, and taken action to address the wall head on.

These walls can take many forms, but they often involve running into a very difficult feeling, facing a new and difficult life stressor, or encountering the realization that personal change (and usually discomfort) will be necessary to achieve a desired goal.

Are You Upset About Something That Can Be Fixed?

Most of the time, when clients are unhappy with therapy, it is due to something that can be overcome to preserve the body of work to that point, potentially growing even more through the difficult experience.

Maybe your therapist said something insensitive or insulting about your culture, your faith, or a group involving someone you care about. Maybe they forgot to tell you they were going out of town and you showed up at your regular time, only to have to turn around and go back home. Whatever the reason, ask yourself the question again.

Is Your Feeling Related To Why You Started Therapy?

Many clients hit one of these walls in therapy when they bump into their core clinical issue. Sometimes they are making good progress, but have a hard time when certain interpersonal issues come up (e.g. abandonment, disappointment, inequity in the relationship, etc.).

Let’s take abandonment as an example. A therapist might make a simple scheduling error such as accidentally double-booking clients for a particular hour without writing one down. This might be experienced as abandonment by a client who is particularly mindful of behaviors of others that indicate the other person is about to leave the relationship. Out of self-preservation, they may become angry with the therapist and leave or threaten to leave therapy, rather than discuss with the therapist what it was like to be forgotten that day.

I would argue that in many such cases, the client would likely get much more out of staying in therapy with their current therapist and working through this unpleasant experience, than simply firing the therapist and leaving. This is a primary concern that the client needs help with, and the therapist has unwittingly opened the door for experiential learning (arguably the best kind of learning because it tends to stick!).

If you happen to have found yourself in a situation like this, whether it is abandonment, or any other issue in therapy, I encourage you to consider our question again.

“Is the reason I find myself wanting to leave therapy the very reason that I need to stay?”

Is A Door Opening To More Meaningful Work?

There’s a chance that the situation you find yourself in might just be a door opening to do some particularly meaningful work with your therapist, even if you’re upset with them right now.

Maybe you have a hard time confronting people. A good therapist should be able to handle being confronted by a client in a way that is actually helpful and conveys safety and compassion.

Maybe you have concerns about the progress you hoped for but aren’t seeing in therapy. A good therapist should be able to hear that kind of feedback, receive it non-defensively, and make appropriate adjustments to improve your treatment. Not only that, but they also may be able to help you to consider any ways that you have grown that you haven’t noticed on your own.

The Client-Therapist Relationship Is Key

So much of the progress in therapy comes from having a positive working relationship with your therapist. The vast majority of clinical therapy research continually demonstrates this. If you’ve got a good relationship with your therapist, use that to your advantage by talking with them about your concerns. Don’t do the text message/email break up thing. Don’t just no-show for your last appointment. That’s not usually helpful in the long term, because saying goodbye in healthy ways is one of the most important things we can learn from therapy.

If you hesitate to have a “termination session” with your therapist, ask yourself the question again.

“Is the reason I find myself wanting to leave therapy the very reason that I need to stay?”

Maybe goodbyes, confrontation, and assertiveness are hard for you. These are all good things to talk about with your therapist, and may represent additional goals to continue working on after your concerns are addressed.

The bottom line in all of this is that therapy is hard work. It involves two or more people in a room, sharing things that we don’t usually get to talk about with other people. It involves confrontation (hopefully gentle and positively-framed). It involves being vulnerable. And, at some point, it involves saying goodbye.

Saying Goodbye is Important

Therapy is not meant to go on forever. If you’ve been with the same therapist every week for many years, it might be healthy to consider whether you still need therapy, or whether you need to try things out on your own. Again, this is a great conversation to have with your therapist. “Am I ready to be on my own?”

Therapy should end once goals have been met, or it is determined that the work is no longer substantially meaningful, or, in rare cases, when there has been a substantial ethical breach. If you are thinking about leaving your therapist, make sure to ask yourself the question above.

This might be the perfect time to take a courageous step and, instead of leaving immediately, tell your therapist that you are considering leaving during your next session. It may just be the most meaningful conversation you have with your therapist.

Only you know your situation, and only you can make the decision when it comes to whether you stay or go. Whatever you decide, be sure to consider the possibility that your desire to leave may be connected to the reason you started therapy in the first place. 

Robert2 Dr. Robert Pate is a licensed Clinical Psychologist (PSY27089) practicing in Orange County, California. For more information about Dr. Pate’s practice, call 657-200-8080 or visit