“I think you should pursue another type of therapy.”
That isn’t exactly the greatest thing to hear out of the mouth of your therapist for the past 4.5 years, is it? Since elementary school, I have been in and out of all kinds of therapy with all kinds of therapists. I started in group therapy and art therapy, and then as I got older, slowly graduated to talk therapy.
Talk therapy has been a life-saver for me since a young age. Because I have struggled with bipolar disorder my entire life, I was processing extremely difficult emotions from a very young age, and having a trained professional to talk to about it was crucial to my healing.
I’ve seen the same therapist for almost all of my adult life – that is, until very recently. Things seemed to be looking up for the most part, until I experienced a pretty harsh mood swing and the typical coping tools that she had equipped me with simply weren’t working. I was mindful of my diet, surrounding myself with people that I cared about, getting outside, taking my medication, and had a spiritual practice, and still, my moods were just out of control. It was in a couple’s therapy session with my partner when I was experiencing particular frustration with my moods that she said the fated words: “I think you need to pursue another type of therapy.”
Granted, it was a type of therapy that she did not specialize in. But still. It felt like a punch in the gut to know that she felt that the treatment I was getting with her wasn’t enough. She encouraged me to check in with her as I pursue other types of healing (more to come on that), but sadly, I realized that my days of having sessions with her were over.
When a therapist breaks up with you, it’s incredibly easy to think that you are untreatable. That you cannot be healed and that things just won’t get better for you. But here’s what you need to know:
The onus is on them, not you.
If they are unable to continue providing treatment for you, that doesn’t mean that you are untreatable. It just means that THEY are unable to treat you in an effective way. If you’re sensitive like me, you may take it personally and it may sting for a while. But the sooner I learned that it wasn’t because they didn’t like me, it just was because they didn’t have the tools to treat me any more, I felt much better.
Feel free to ask for referrals and recommendations.
If you feel comfortable, ask them if they have a colleague or a specific modality of healing that they might recommend you pursue. My ex-therapist recommended TWO different kinds of healing, I pursued both, and both have been greatly effective.
Life will go on.
If you’ve been seeing this therapist for years like I had, it can be hard to think that there’s a life after them. Like dating after a serious break-up, getting used to putting yourself out there and finding a new therapist can seem daunting and scary. But what’s on the other side of slogging through Psychology Today bios WILL BE a therapist who truly understands you and will be able to walk alongside you in this leg of your life.
Find a temporary support system while you’re therapist-hunting.
If you’re really struggling and aren’t in a place where you think you can be without a therapist, there are many ways you can build a temporary support system in place of your therapist while you search for one. Make sure you tell your friends/family that you may be relying on them more significantly for emotional support during this time, and to let you know if they are not in a place to bear that burden. ALWAYS ASK before you unload on someone. You may not know what they’ve got on their plate. I also turned to my online community of friends, and there are many message boards such as 7 Cups of Tea that provide free emotional support when you feel you have nowhere else to turn to. If all else fails, and you REALLY need help, there’s always the Crisis Textline, which I have used in a pinch and I don’t have anyone else to talk to and need immediate support.
A therapist breakup can be as painful as a breakup with a significant other. And things may seem a little unstable, especially if you’re in a tumultuous part of your life where you really need someone to talk to. But there is light at the end of the tunnel, and someone who is WAY better equipped to handle your struggles than the previous therapist was.
Have you ever experienced a therapist break-up? Comment below!