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How to Break Up With Your Therapist

Illustration: Johanna Walderdorff

Are you ready to end therapy but not quite sure how to do it? The final days often include guilt, shame, anxiety, dishonesty, and basically all the things one goes to therapy to work through — but they don’t have to. Here are 21 stories from real people about how they pulled the plug, from just plain ghosting to making up a cross-country move to simply being honest.

My therapist made a mistake. He said something about how I was sleeping with my longtime boss. I had been complaining about my boss for a while, but nothing like that was ever going on. How could you think that? Were you really never listening to me? The next week, when I told him I was shocked he suggested that, and that it was very upsetting, he tried to blame it on me! He said, “Well, the way you talk about him, it’s not surprising that I thought that.” The next week, I found that I just couldn’t get over it. I broke up with him after our hour was up, in person. I told him it was unforgivable that he made a mistake like that and, worse, that he said it was my fault. He’d helped me for more than two years, so it was a sad end. He wished me well, and I walked away. —Amy, 51, New York 

It was a couples therapist, and we weren’t getting anywhere in the sessions. I kept trying to get her to understand how my husband was acting like a robot, and she seemed to think he was just a very “reasonable” person. It was like she was advancing his narrative that I was a hysterical woman and he was a nice, normal man. Even my husband thought it was a waste of time. Our fighting wasn’t getting better, nor was our communicating. We both agreed we’d be better served with getting dinner or drinks together during that hour away from work and our kids. So, during our last session, I just told her I didn’t think we were a good fit for her. I also said that our goals of repairing the relationship were not improving, and that if she had any recommendations for someone better matched for us to please send my way. She seemed okay with it; I think she was sick of us anyway. —Tia, 40, Brooklyn

I had a therapist who was helping me reconcile the fact that I’d fallen for a non-Jewish man, and I was scared my parents would disown me if I continued with the relationship. My therapist had a Jewish last name, which was why I chose her, as I thought we’d have a shorthand on the topic. Like, she’d “get” the kind of traditional Jewish family I came from. However, in session, she said it was her husband’s last name and that she was actually atheist and agnostic. Which was fine. Good for her. After a few sessions, I found that she was very judgy toward my family. I was hoping for a therapist who was more balanced. I would leave the sessions feeling guilty, like I was dragging my family for an hour. So, I put all this into a short but sweet email, like, “You’ve been so great to talk to. However, I’m really hoping to work with someone who has personal experience living within a traditional Jewish household. You’ve done nothing wrong and I think you’re wonderful at what you do. Thanks for everything.” She called me the next day and was pretty aggressive about why I should stay with her. She said my email was proof that I needed someone outside of the bubble. I told her that she was probably right, but I was still moving on. —Amanda, 27, New York

I broke up with my therapist because she was so good at her job that she literally fixed me, and I didn’t need to keep going. She taught me about breathing, and balance, and how to negotiate with some of the negative inner voices inside my head. I was with her for about a decade, and when I turned 70, I walked into our session and said, “I love you, but this is going to be our last session. Our work here is done, I think?” And then I told her I wanted to spend all my extra time with my grandchildren and not in therapy. We had a normal session, talking about some stressful things that happened during the week and how I coped and used all the tools in my toolbox, thanks to her. Then we hugged at the end. It was a beautiful and emotional good-bye. —Laurel, 72, Brooklyn

I was seeing a therapist in Washington, D.C., where I had moved to live with my boyfriend. He had a big job and tons of friends, and I had a small freelance writing career and no friends. I felt so lonely and left out — and paranoid about my boyfriend potentially cheating on me — that I got a therapist. She was wonderful. She validated all my feelings. She made me feel seen and heard. But then, I saw her shopping at Whole Foods in the cereal section. I wasn’t going to say hi … but then I went over and said hello. It was a sweet but totally awkward exchange. As I drove home, I was like, “I can never see her again.” It was totally illogical and irrational, but I was just like, it’s over. I felt too weird about it. A week later, before our next therapy session, I called and told her I was dumping my boyfriend and moving back to New York and that I wouldn’t be coming back to therapy. It was a complete lie. I left all this on a voice-mail — it felt like a blessing that she hadn’t picked up. She called me the next day, and I screened her call. She left a nice message that she understood but would love one more session, or perhaps to continue via phone calls. I never called her back. And she never called me. The whole thing was so cringe! In the end, several months later, I did indeed dump him and move back to New York. I’ve tried a few therapists since, but she was the best of them all. —Alice, 45, Brooklyn

I didn’t start therapy until I was 41. It was over Zoom, and the therapist was a woman in her early 20s. I only ended up with her because she happened to take my crap insurance. Despite being new in her career, she was very good — I could tell she’d be a great shrink. But her voice was super-irritating. It was like a baby-talk voice. After a few sessions, I just couldn’t handle it anymore. I ended up sending her a nice email saying my insurance was changing and I had to evaluate all my medical care and that I’d be in touch. In hindsight, what a weak email! I’m sure she saw through the bullshit. But she wrote back and wished me well. —Stanley, 42, Brooklyn

I worked for a well-known, highly intimidating, and demanding radio personality. We needed a therapist for a segment and none of the regulars in my rolodex at the time responded, so I emailed my own therapist, and she agreed to come to the studio that evening and go live with the host. I told her it was live radio and sent over a call sheet with specific details — including the time — as I did with any other guest. She took the call sheet as a suggestion, showed up after we wrapped, and got me in a lot of trouble (ironically, this particular show and host and all the anxiety it gave me was a huge part of our sessions). Needless to say, not only was it completely disrespectful to me and my time, I realized if she couldn’t get her shit together to make a press appearance and manage her own life, then why was I letting her manage mine? So I was completely passive aggressive (another thing we were working on in therapy!) and told her my work schedule was changing and it was no longer possible to make our appointments. Then I ignored her calls for three months. She left message after message offering new slots — and with every message, asked for a make-up appearance on the show! I never called her back, and needless to say, I never saw her again. —Lane, 38, Connecticut

My therapist fell asleep during a session where I was talking about my divorce. I was too shy to wake him up. I snuck out of there without saying good-bye but knew I’d be dumping him right away. I had no idea how to handle the breakup. And since I was going through a divorce, I resented that I had to figure out another break up on top of the epic one I was already going through. Ultimately, a few days later, I texted him that money was really tight and I had to find a therapist who took my insurance. He texted back that we could figure something out, fee-wise, and I said that I needed all of it to be covered by insurance. He was really fighting for me to stay. He said he could do a few pro bono sessions. Ultimately I just had to ghost him. Begging me to stay just felt ungracious and weird. Like, let me go, dude. —Elizabeth, 50, Boston

I wanted to sleep with my therapist, so I had to break up with her. Especially since I was in therapy because I’d had an affair and was riddled with guilt. Ultimately, I couldn’t come up with anything good, so in session — while I was yakking about my usual relationship stresses — I came up with a lie. I told her I was training for a marathon (I had never run before in my life) and that it was going to be my only priority for a while and I’d reach out after the New York City Marathon was over. She asked when that was, and I said, “I think June.” I honestly had no clue. It was a blatant lie, a shady lie, but also a quick way to make sure I never heard from her again. —Mac, 55, New York

Nothing in my life was working. My marriage was falling apart. I was fatigued all the time. Therapy was just one big cry session after another. Zero progress. I was always thinking, Why won’t she just tell me how to feel better? All she did was listen and nod! She barely spoke! After a few weeks of seeing her, I said, “Do you have any tools for me? Any coping mechanisms?” She wrote down the names of three books. I didn’t want to spend money on three freakin’ books, I wanted her help in session! That was it for me. So I wrote her an email with an obvious lie in it. I just wanted to fuck with her because, again, I did not care for this woman. This was the email: “I’ve decided to rent a villa in Italy and write a memoir about my marriage falling apart. I’m leaving town this week. Trying to stay offline while there, so I won’t be able to email any further. Grazie!” —Allison, 41, Boston

I was crying on my therapist’s couch and she got up, crossed the room, sat down next to me, and pulled me into a hug, full on with my head on her bosom. And wouldn’t let me go! It was so icky. I left that day and called the next night to leave a breakup message on her voice-mail. I said I was taking a break from therapy but would be in touch soon. I never heard from her again! —Elan, 32, San Francisco

I wrote an article about how sometimes you want to sleep with your therapist so that means you should probably break up with them, and then I sent it to her. She wrote back, “Interesting! Thanks for sending!” Amazingly, it wasn’t over after that. We went back into weekly sessions again without really discussing it. Then — I mean it’s a long journey — I realized that she practiced attachment therapy and was studying how I interacted with and attached to her. And I hated that. It felt like my vulnerability in therapy was being used against me, and it made me self-conscious. So then I quit again after writing another article about therapy and when it’s time to quit. I forwarded that one to her too, along with an email saying that I realized that I have the tools now to handle whatever comes my way and that it was time. It took two more sessions — suggested by her — to actually break up, and it was sweet and a little sad, but I knew that it was time. Jamie, 45, Brooklyn

I loved my therapist. We were together for a year. She was helping me with anxiety. We vibed on so many levels, and she was a cool lady. Her daughter wanted to work in advertising, and I happen to own a small advertising agency. At the end of a session, she asked if her daughter could possibly intern for me. I said, “Yes!” I gave her an internship, and she was pretty good. But I just couldn’t continue telling my darkest secrets to her mom. It all felt muddied. I started canceling appointments, blaming my work schedule, and eventually just stopped trying to reschedule. It fizzled. I made it weird. And then it was over. —Mia, 40, Santa Barbara

I emailed my therapist of a year to terminate our relationship because she had screwed up the scheduling one too many times, and I just felt like it was the wrong fit. She asked for one last session for “closure,” and then made me spend the full hour explaining why I was dumping her. It felt like such a waste of money … like, I was there for her closure, not mine. I was like, “You don’t really listen to me. Sometimes I wonder if you even like me?” I felt very whiny the entire time and was basically talking out of my ass, just to get to the end of our time. —Eric, 38, Los Angeles

She was older, and kind of dull, and it just got stale. Like, I was trying to think of things to talk about and starting to wish I was doing anything else but therapy. So, in person, at the start of a session, I did one of those “It’s not you, it’s me” kind of things. She was pissed. She listed all the ways I was confrontational, and then she suggested that I was dumping her because she wanted to see me multiple times a week and I declined. It was dramatic and uncomfortable, and I couldn’t wait to get out of there. I had to really stand strong in my position that it was over. She wouldn’t accept that, in the end, so we agreed that I would take time to think about it and then, after a few days, I called to let her know I definitely wanted to end, and I thanked her for everything she had helped me with, and she huffed and didn’t say anything back! —Sasha, 39, Brooklyn

I wanted to do some light family therapy with my kids, after getting divorced from their dad. It wasn’t a horrible divorce, but it just seemed wise to bring in a specialist to help smooth over some edges. After two sessions, I realized that I really did not agree with this therapist’s style. She was talking to my 5- and 7-year-old about all the “trauma” they had suffered; she gave them permission to “sit in their pain.” It felt like she was putting this darkness into their heads. Like she was fucking them up more than the actual divorce. I called her after our second session and said that we were ending counseling with her. I was honest and said it wasn’t the right style for our family. She started crying about how she was projecting from her own parents’ divorce, 40 years ago or whatever, and she was just so upset. It was pretty unhinged. At the end of the call, she said, “You hurt my feelings, but I do respect your wishes.” It was a big yikes! —Reema, 52, New York

I shared way too much about my deepest, darkest fears as a single gay dad with a therapist who I didn’t like from the start. He was older and grumpy and honestly seemed homophobic. He was the very last person you’d want to talk about being a new parent with. But he took my insurance and was in my neighborhood. After about six sessions of him making me feel worse about myself, I decided I was over it. I left him a parting voice-mail at the exact time I knew he had another client (the one after me) and said that I wanted to give therapy a break and would be in touch in a few months. It was a simple breakup. The next day, he sent me a threatening email listing all the ways I was an unfit parent. He said that I really needed to remain in therapy or he might need to alert the authorities. I can’t remember the exact language he used, but it was terrifying and absolutely bonkers. I called my lawyer, who assured me that I had nothing to worry about. He wrote a very stern email and the therapist backed off. I didn’t want to hear another thing from this man ever again. His email still haunts me! —Barry, 35, Miami

I started seeing her when I was 25. She changed my life. She was brilliant. She was like a mother figure for over 15 years. During COVID, it went to Zoom sessions, which trailed off into phone calls. With the phone calls, it started to feel like I was just chatting with my mom. And much like you do with your mother, I started dodging the calls. I was making up excuses, texting her, “I’m in a meeting, can we chat later?” Emotionally and physically, I wasn’t “showing up” for therapy. The truth was, I probably had some therapy fatigue, but I didn’t really have the words for that. We always scheduled our weekly sessions via text. One week, I didn’t text her back about when I was free. She followed up. I didn’t respond. She followed up. I didn’t contact her. And then it stopped. Three months passed and I was like, “Oh shit, did I just ghost my sweet, dear, life-changing therapist?” She was one of the most important women in my life … I was stunned that I could do that to her. But I guess it just ran its course. The 25-year-old girl was now a 40-year-old wife with two children. She was a mother figure to me and that wasn’t quite what I needed anymore. Last week, I pulled her up on Facebook to see if she was still alive, as she was much older, and she looked happy and just fine without me. She’s got several grandkids. I do feel like I should have had closure with her because she was so good to me, but she knows me so well, I assume she can make sense of the ending of it all.” — Teresa, 43, Ohio

I wanted her at my wedding because she was so instrumental in getting me to a place where I could be someone’s wife, and I just felt very grateful for that. She got the invite in the mail like everyone else. In our next session, she said, “As for your wedding, I thought about it and don’t think it’s appropriate.” I explained that the reason I was getting married in the first place had so much to do with the work we were doing together. I thought she’d see it as a win. Instead, the invitation made everything too weird. I gave it a few more sessions, and then over email told her I didn’t have time for therapy with all the wedding prep. She wrote me a very loving note back and said she’d be around whenever I was ready to start up again. —Jess, 40, Los Angeles

I’ve had the same touchy-feely therapist since 2015, but right now I’m less about spilling my beans every week and more about experimenting with psychedelics, ketamine, MDMA, and mushrooms. I’m interested in what I’ll find and what I don’t have access to in a conscious state. So, at our last session, I told her I’m quitting because she can’t prescribe any drugs and that I need more help than she can give. I also told her that I wanted someone looking at my bloodwork and nutrition. My exact words were, “You are more like a best friend than a doctor to me at this point.” She looked at me, for the first time in all these years, like I was legitimately crazy, and in fact, I did sound crazy. I paid for the session and we said good-bye. Now, I’m seeing a psychiatrist who I’m really into, and I am doing ketamine with her guidance next week and feel very excited about it all. —Paul, 48, Brooklyn

I quit my therapist after she told me she loved me. It was after several years of sessions together, and as I walked out the door, she said, “I love ya, Molly.” It was just so odd! So I texted her a few days later that work was crazy and I was going to be traveling all the time — both things were true. She gave me a thumbs-up emoji. And we never reconnected again. But then I very much crumbled without her. I should not have quit her without another therapist locked and loaded. I had six rough months until I found someone new, and frankly they were not half as good as the original one who “loved” me. Molly, 28, New Jersey

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