How do I transition to a new therapist when I don't want to change?
February 14, 2017 8:11 AM   Subscribe

My therapist of a year plus is taking over a new program with the organization and will no longer be doing individual therapy. At some point this spring, I will change over to another therapist.

I do not want to change therapists at all. I clicked right away with Kate (not her real name), she's been an amazing support after my mother's unexpected death, helping me work through emotions and practical issues and occasionally just listening to me cry. She's been instrumental in sparking my current attempts to move on with my life.

She told me about the change a few weeks ago, with the transition not planned to happen for a little while.

How do I transition to a new therapist after I've built up so much trust with Kate - and don't want to change in the first place?

I don't trust easily. I don't have the energy right now to go through my whole story with someone new. I don't want to work with someone much younger than me (Kate is about 20 years older). And I really don't need an additional stressor just falling into my life. I'm a little frustrated with the situation.

And how do I work with Kate until the change?

I am aware that there are many other skilled therapists out there, I know she is not the only one who can help me progress. I am not taking her decision personally (progress for me) and I know I was always going to move away and need to change therapists at some point.

I'd love to hear from folks who have changed from a therapist you worked well with to a new therapist, especially if anyone has done so for reasons beyond your control.
posted by Archipelago to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This is not meant to be a flippant reply, but you should bring these questions up with Kate -- and presumably she already knows you will have a tough time with this transition. Therapists are used to transitioning people gently as part of their profession.
posted by WCityMike at 8:20 AM on February 14, 2017 [3 favorites]

Had to change when I moved. I got lucky with a guy near me. The first session was pretty breakneck, but not in a bad way. He went through the same "family diagram"-type interview that pretty much anyone will start with, and when we talked about, say, my dad, I would give him the highlights of what I'd had breakthroughs (with previous therapist) about re my dad. I did some pre-thinking about this so that I wouldn't be too disorganized.

1. Ask for her to give you several names of people she knows in town who specialize in exactly the kind of therapy that she's used on you to the greatest effect, or at least people in town who are really fecking good. Plus, if she has previously sent them a decent number of referrals, they will provide you with their best efforts because they want to keep that referral pipeline open. (This is my own experience, in my law practice, but surely it holds true here. Everybody needs to pay the bills.)

2. Have her give you a HIPAA authorization to sign so that she can give her records re: you to the next therapist and talk to the therapist about you.

3. Encourage your new therapist to call Kate and pick her brain about you for a bit. It's common professional courtesy to field that call when you send a client to another professional.

In other words, don't be afraid to be your own advocate.

On preview: +1 WCMike.
posted by radicalawyer at 8:25 AM on February 14, 2017

I had to do something very similar. +1 to answers so far, and two additional thoughts:

-- If you don't want a younger therapist, say so. Don't be afraid to be direct with, or express your feelings to, your current or your new therapist.

-- If your budget, circumstances, and/or health insurance allow, consider having your first appointment with a new therapist before your last appointment with the current one. For me, that helped a lot with the simultaneous stresses.
posted by gnomeloaf at 8:46 AM on February 14, 2017 [3 favorites]

Do talk with her about this.

As best you can, embrace this as a growth experience. Life is full of choices taken out of your hands, and there are skills and techniques for dealing with that, and those are things you can work on as part of both the old and new therapy relationships, even if it's a little meta to do so.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:06 AM on February 14, 2017

Response by poster: Just to clarify - I fully intend to talk this over with Kate, just haven't had a chance to do so. She told me about her new position at our last session, a few weeks ago, and has been on vacation since. I don't see her again til next Wednesday.
posted by Archipelago at 9:18 AM on February 14, 2017

Issues of trust and abandonment are totally appropriate for you to be taking to Kate about in the meantime. It's not just about this particular transition, I'm sure it also has to due with your history so working on the specifics will also be part of doing your larger work. If she's good, she can help you through this in a way that might help heal old wounds.

Talk to Kate about choosing a new therapist. It will be easier to adjust to the new one if you know that it is someone that Kate trusts to take good care of you. (Not always an option but a big plus if it happens.) One thought, Is your new therapist going to be within the same organization? If so, maybe you can arrange for the new therapist to briefly join the end of one of your session where Kate can introduce you and you and Kate can reflect together, in front of the new person on the work that you have done together.
posted by metahawk at 10:37 AM on February 14, 2017

This might make you feel worse or feel better, but I think every therapist brings a different perspective and clicks with you in a different way. So you will discover new things about yourself or your issues. That can speed progress. But you won't be able to recreate what you have and keep working this exact issue through this same lens, I'm sorry. You can tell your new therapist what sorts of things were being helpful, which might help. But it won't be the same. I'd approach this by hoping to find someone I clicked with even better. After all this, you'll have your original therapist's plus your new therapist's perspectives to draw upon.

Also, I don't know the reason for the switch, but if she's moving or retiring, you could see if she'd do an occasional phone session, if something came up that you really wanted to talk with her about. You'd probably have to limit that to some number she's comfortable with, since she's obviously doing this transition for a reason. But knowing that she was open to connecting once in a blue moon might make this easier? Good luck.
posted by salvia at 10:43 AM on February 14, 2017

Response by poster: New circumstances: just found out that I will not be able to see Kate again until the end of March; she will only be doing individual sessions one morning a week. I am going to try to transition to a new therapist ASAP, simply because this is very difficult time for me and I need the support. I don't know if that changes anyone's answers, but it looks like I won't be able to work through the change with Kate before it happens. I'm starting to get a little peeved here.
posted by Archipelago at 12:02 PM on February 14, 2017

she's been an amazing support after my mother's unexpected death, helping me work through emotions and practical issues

Can you apply any of that to the current situation? It is also a loss, and an unexpected one, but can you draw on anything that she did with you to help you through this?
posted by heyjude at 8:55 PM on February 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

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