Switching therapists with less bad feels?
July 24, 2019 4:07 AM   Subscribe

I need a new therapist. But I feel … guilty? I don’t think therapy should bring THIS kind of stress and I’m not confident it will change. How do I put my mental health first here?

I do therapy online - by phone. (I had a local therapist I loved, but she’s inaccessible to me at the moment.)

I was matched with a therapist that has similar chronic illnesses. At first, I was very excited because it meant an understanding of the stressors that I deal with as a disabled/ill person.

However, multiple times in the 4 or 5 (short) sessions I’ve felt like I was THEIR therapist. Like, because I’m also ill, they overshare in a way that isn't constructive. In summary: going on about their pain/problems, that they are in bed/pjs/lounging during our sessions, seemingly not listening/not giving feedback, and more.

I brushed it off initially but it’s gotten worse, including a time where I very much needed support and didn’t get it. It’s leaving me stressed and worried about their status more than mine. Plus I haven’t felt “heard” or given fresh/good perspectives. Trying to communicate directly for feedback hasn’t lead to changes or help, even going into sessions with written out feelings/goals/questions. This has become a burden rather than helpful.

I can literally click a button and request a new therapist and hope the next one is decent. I think I should.

I feel like I’m rude or selfish or betraying them if I switch - because yet again I’m worried more for their feelings.If this were a bad doctor or something I would just move on. But I think sharing a similar life experience makes me feel like I'm doing something wrong.

I haven’t even booked a new session. After sharing the extent of it with my spouse, they think strongly I should quietly switch. I agree.

This sounds like it’s time to just silently request a new therapist, right?

How can I put myself first here without feeling like an ass?
If I'm matched with a good new therapist, should I bring this up?
posted by SockWombat to Human Relations (13 answers total)
If this were a bad doctor or something I would just move on.
That's exactly what they are! They are a bad doctor! It's their job to take care of you, not your job to take care of them. You don't have to tell your new therapist anything you don't want to. Click a button, they sound terrible.
posted by colorblock sock at 4:14 AM on July 24, 2019 [19 favorites]

I feel like I’m rude or selfish or betraying them if I switch - because yet again I’m worried more for their feelings.

Huh? No, of course this isn't rude or selfish. You are literally paying them to do a job, and they aren't doing that job. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if this violates the established ethical standards of administering therapy.

This doesn't sound like a person who should be administering therapy – it sounds like they need to go find their own therapist and sort their own issues out first.

Prolonging this situation won't help either of you. Get a new therapist.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 4:20 AM on July 24, 2019 [6 favorites]

(Also: yes, I think this is worth discussing with a new, better therapist. You shouldn't need our permission to prioritize your own care, especially in a situation where you are paying for said care, and the person being paid isn't meeting basic standards. If you're putting your own needs second in this situation, then I imagine you're doing it in other parts of your life, as well.)
posted by escape from the potato planet at 4:24 AM on July 24, 2019 [3 favorites]

Because therapy is so personal, it can get difficult to remember that therapists are offering a service that you're in no way obligated to continue to purchase from them. Changing to a therapist who suits your needs better is expected behavior from a patient who is advocating for themselves, and if the interface you deal with allows you to switch without having to have the conversation with your current therapist, even better! Go forth and find the right fit with at least one internet stranger's blessing.
posted by xingcat at 5:29 AM on July 24, 2019 [4 favorites]

It can be okay to be selfish. It is okay to be selfish in this situation, meaning literally that you put your own needs first. It can be hard for us to feel that we deserve to put ourselves first, but we do. You have to take care of you.
posted by mai at 6:00 AM on July 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

It is normal to feel guilty around terminating services. A good therapist would help you process those feelings without making the session about them. This person does not seem well trained, and for your health, it would behoove you to find someone with better boundaries to treat you. I’d say, accept the shitty feeling, and give it a home in yourself until you can find a good therapist with which you can reflect on it.
posted by executive_dysfuncti0n at 6:10 AM on July 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

As a therapist you’ll see hundreds of patients over your career. They come and go all the time. If having a patient ghost you after a few sessions was anything other than a minor disappointment to you, you wouldn’t last a year.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 6:37 AM on July 24, 2019 [4 favorites]

I left a therapist once because it felt like I was taking care of her emotionally. I do not regret changing to a different therapist. I do regret waiting as long as I did to make the change. Take care of yourself and make the change. Your future self will thank you. Good luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 7:44 AM on July 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

It's a weird relationship because it feels like friendship, but the therapist is not your friend, and they are not doing their job. Move on and get the help you need and deserve. Your concern indicates that you are a nice person, and that your therapist has poor boundaries.
posted by theora55 at 8:02 AM on July 24, 2019 [4 favorites]

You have this internet stranger's permission to dump this person. They sound like they're not capable of being someone's therapist at the moment. Finding a good therapist is sometimes a matter of trial and error. You've had the trial and it isn't working for you. Move on, it's fine. Can you leave a review of this therapist? That might help people in the future.
posted by kathrynm at 9:22 AM on July 24, 2019

Therapy is one-sided professional relationship, there can be a genuine personal connection but it doesn't have the same rules of symmetry as a usual friendship. First rule of therapy is that the session are supposed to be all about you. Any sharing on the part of the therapist should be for your benefit, not the therapist. For example, a therapist might share something about their own situation as a social pleasantry or to help create a better connection. But you are paying them and in return they are there solely for the purpose of helping you solve your problems.

This therapist has issues that are interfering with their ability to do their job well right now. It is not your job to take care of them, it is your job to take care of yourself and if they aren't the right person to help with that, then move on. And if your leaving causes problems or just discomfort for the therapist, that is something they should be talking about to their own therapist - not your problem.
posted by metahawk at 9:51 AM on July 24, 2019 [4 favorites]

A therapist isn't supposed to do or say anything that could lead you to want to look after them or their emotions. A had a therapist once who talked about her daughter's problems once in a while and showed me pictures of her grandchild. I didn't see anything wrong with these things because they didn't take much of my time, but it actually was wrong because her feelings weren't supposed to be my responsibility. Later when I wanted to switch therapists, I felt bad because she seemed to be hurt that I was leaving. You're not supposed to have to care how the therapist feels at all. Anything they say about themselves should strictly be for a therapeutic effect.
posted by wryly at 3:46 PM on July 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

This sounds like horrendously unprofessional behavior on the part of the therapist. You deserve quality care and should feel zero guilt about switching.
posted by MrBobinski at 5:19 PM on July 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

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