How do you tell your therapist you want to switch?

Deciding to switch therapists can be a difficult decision. You may feel anxious about having an awkward conversation or worry about hurting your current therapist’s feelings. However, remembering that therapy is about you and your needs can help give you courage to make a change.

Why might you want to switch therapists?

There are many valid reasons for wanting to switch therapists:

  • You don’t feel like you’re making progress or connecting with them
  • Their therapeutic approach or style doesn’t work for you
  • You’ve outgrown the relationship and need something different
  • You’re relocating and can no longer meet with them in person
  • There are changes in your insurance coverage
  • You need more specialized help, like trauma therapy
  • You feel judged, dismissed, or invalidated by them
  • You’ve tried addressing issues directly but nothing changes
  • You feel like therapy is stagnating and you’re stuck

If you’ve given therapy a fair shot but it’s not meeting your needs, it may be time to switch therapists. This can actually be an important part of your growth.

How to mentally prepare for the conversation

Having a game plan can help ease anxiety about bringing up switching therapists. Here are some tips:

  • Reflect on your reasons for wanting to switch and how to explain them
  • Rehearse what you want to say so you feel prepared
  • Remind yourself this is about your treatment and doing what’s best for you
  • Accept that while uncomfortable, it’s a normal conversation therapists have
  • Focus on expressing appreciation for their time and effort
  • Know you aren’t obligated to continue treatment if it’s not working

It also helps to remember that a good therapist will respond professionally and support your decision, even if it’s disappointing. Their ego should not depend on keeping you as a client.

When to have the discussion

It’s best to have the conversation as soon as you decide you want to switch therapists, rather than waiting until you can’t take it anymore. Here are some tips on timing:

  • Schedule it for the start of a session, not the end when you may be rushed
  • Make sure you have time to fully explain your reasons and next steps
  • Don’t cancel multiple sessions in a row, then spring it on them
  • Allow 1-2 sessions to wrap up instead of quitting abruptly

Giving your therapist notice in a timely, forthright manner allows for a smoother transition. But if you feel very unsafe or ignored by them, it’s okay to prioritize your well-being.

What to say when switching therapists

Here are some tips for respectfully explaining your desire to switch therapists:

  • Thank them for their time and positive contributions to your growth. This acknowledges the efforts they’ve made.
  • Reassure them this is not a reflection on their skills, but your therapeutic needs have changed.
  • Be direct that you’ve decided to work with someone else moving forward. Don’t beat around the bush.
  • Provide context by explaining the reasons you want to switch therapists. This gives helpful closure.
  • Suggest a transition plan, like meeting a few more times to wrap up loose ends.
  • Ask for referrals if they know therapists who may be a better fit.

Here is an example script you could modify:

“Thank you so much for all the time you’ve invested in my treatment. I appreciate your patience and efforts to help me, but I don’t think I’m getting what I need from therapy right now. This isn’t because you’re not skilled, but I believe I would benefit more from a different therapeutic approach at this point. I’ve decided I’d like to switch therapists and start seeing someone new. I’m happy to meet a few more times to wrap things up if you think that would be helpful. I also would appreciate any referrals you might have for others I could contact. Please know this was a difficult decision, and I am grateful for your understanding.”

What if they get defensive?

Hopefully your therapist will respond positively, even if they feel disappointed. But some may react defensively or try to convince you to stay. Here’s how to handle pushback:

  • Reaffirm it’s your right to switch at any time if the therapy is not meeting your needs
  • Don’t get drawn into defending your reasons or trying to justify your decision
  • Politely redirect the conversation to next steps like referrals
  • If they will not accept your decision, say you are no longer interested in discussing it
  • Set boundaries and leave if their behavior is highly unprofessional or makes you uncomfortable

While conflict avoidance is understandable, remember you know what’s best for your mental health. You should not feel guilty or be pressured into staying with a therapist if you genuinely believe it’s no longer a good fit.

How to end the therapeutic relationship

Switching therapists can bring up feelings of grief and loss. Here are some tips for final sessions and closure:

  • Summarize your therapy experience – note what you learned and appreciated
  • Process any emotions that come up like sadness, anger, relief
  • Tie up loose ends on goals you worked on together
  • Ask any logistical questions about transferring records, referrals, etc.
  • Express gratitude and well wishes for each other moving forward

Therapists are trained to handle terminations, so you can be direct that you’d like your next sessions to focus on wrapping up. This provides time for a respectful ending.

How to choose a new therapist

Searching for a new therapist can feel overwhelming, but having an idea of your preferences makes it easier. Consider what you’re looking for in areas like:

  • Approach: CBT, psychoanalytic, integrative, etc.
  • Structure: Very hands-on or more insight/discussion focused
  • Demographic: Age, gender, culture, religion, etc.
  • Experience: Expertise with your specific concerns
  • Location: In-person, video, availability of appointments
  • Personality: Warm, direct, quirky, etc.
  • Cost: Fees covered by your insurance

Resources like make it easy to search by filters like these. Or ask your current therapist for recommendations of those they respect. Interview a few potential options to see who seems like the best fit.

What to say when first meeting a new therapist

The intake session with a new therapist is the perfect time to share relevant background. Make sure to cover:

  • Your diagnosis and mental health history
  • Medications or other current treatment
  • The approach and qualities you’re looking for
  • Why you left your previous therapist
  • What did and didn’t work well in past therapy
  • Your goals and hopes for treatment moving forward

Giving a new therapist this context right away allows them to tailor your sessions to meet your needs from the start. Be honest if something is or isn’t clicking so you don’t waste time on another poor fit.

How to make the switch smoother

Transitioning between therapists can be challenging. Here are tips to ease the process:

  • Ask your former therapist to transfer your records to the new one
  • Summarize what you worked on for your new therapist
  • Make sure you have enough medication refills during the switch
  • Give the new relationship time to develop trust and rapport
  • Be open about your anxieties so they can support you
  • Accept that adjusting to someone new’s style takes patience

Remember progress isn’t always linear. Stick with the new therapist long enough to genuinely assess if they are a better match before deciding whether or not to continue searching.

What if you want to return to a previous therapist?

If you left a therapist on good terms, going back is often an option with some caveats:

  • Contact them to see if they have availability
  • Explain briefly why you think restarting therapy could be helpful
  • Ask if they require intake forms to be filled out again
  • Inquire about costs since rates may have changed
  • Discuss how therapy will be different this time around
  • Agree you both want to resume the therapeutic relationship

Returning to an old therapist can make sense if you had a strong connection but needed a break for some reason. But avoid flip-flopping back and forth indecisively.

Are there risks to switching therapists?

While changing therapists has many benefits, potential downsides include:

  • Time getting a new therapist up to speed on your history
  • Risk of the new therapist also being a poor fit
  • Feeling like you’re starting over from scratch
  • Insurance hassles if they aren’t in the same provider network
  • Disrupting medication or a treatment plan
  • Grief about losing a supportive therapeutic relationship
  • Financial cost of intake appointments as a new client

However, staying with an ineffective therapist wastes time and money too. And a better suited match can revitalize your treatment progress.

When is it okay to take a therapy break?

Pausing therapy for a period of time is valid if:

  • You feel emotionally drained and need time to recharge
  • Issues that brought you to therapy have improved
  • You want to try applying skills on your own first
  • Life circumstances make it difficult to consistently attend
  • Finances are tight and you need to cut back on expenses
  • You will be traveling and unable to meet for a while

Discuss taking a tentative break with your therapist. Set a timeframe like 2-3 months. Make a plan for checking in and reevaluating your needs then. This allows you to pause without rupturing the relationship long-term.

Signs it’s time to take a break vs. switch therapists

Here are some differences in signs indicating a break could help vs. when switching is better:

Taking a therapy break may be beneficial if:

  • You feel mentally/emotionally tired but have a good alliance
  • Treatment is going well and you want to try applying skills
  • External factors like finances or travel prevent temporarily attending
  • You need time and space to process therapeutic progress

Switching therapists may be better if:

  • You have ongoing personality clashes or therapeutic differences
  • Treatment feels ineffective or stalled despite addressing issues
  • You need a specialist like a trauma therapist
  • Their approach feels misaligned with your needs
  • You feel disrespected, dismissed, or uncomfortable

Check in with yourself about whether the issues seem situational due to outside factors, signalling a break could help, or more core incompatibilities where switching is the healthier option.

Questions to ask yourself when considering switching

If you’re on the fence about switching therapists, reflect on questions like:

  • Have I expressed my desires for something different/more? How did they respond?
  • Are we able to communicate effectively and work through issues?
  • Do I feel empowered and understood in our sessions?
  • Am I being challenged in ways that encourage my growth?
  • Do I leave most sessions feeling worse instead of better?
  • Are my therapeutic goals and priorities being addressed?
  • Do I feel safe opening up emotionally in our work together?
  • Is this relationship energizing me or draining me?

Your gut instinct about the therapy relationship matters. If you’ve tried communicating concerns without improvement, exploring a switch may be the right move.

Tips for talking to friends/family about switching

Telling loved ones you’re considering a new therapist can stir up complicated reactions. Use these strategies:

  • Assure them you’re not quitting therapy, just making a change
  • Explain briefly why you feel it could improve your treatment
  • Decline to provide details about your therapist – keep it private
  • If they have concerns, hear them out but reaffirm it’s your choice
  • Share your emotions about the transition so they understand it’s challenging
  • Let them know how they can support you through the switch

Setting these boundaries reduces gossip while inviting loved ones’ care. Their opinions may differ but this decision is about your well-being.

What to do if your therapist drops you as a client?

While uncommon, therapists may terminate treatment if:

  • You have conflicts about goals or methods
  • Non-payment of fees for services
  • Frequent cancelling or no-showing for appointments
  • Abusive, threatening, or inappropriate conduct
  • They feel unable to meet your needs with their expertise
  • You aren’t benefitting and decline to change course
  • They have life circumstances impacting their practice

This can feel hurtful or triggering abandonment. Coping tips include:

  • Asking for a few sessions to process the termination
  • Expressing your feelings to understand their decision
  • Requesting referrals to other providers
  • Looking for patterns in what led to the termination
  • Taking time to grieve the loss of an important relationship

While jarring, try to learn from the experience so future therapeutic relationships flourish.


Switching therapists can represent an important milestone in taking control of your care and well-being. With sensitivity and courage, you can have honest conversations to end unhelpful relationships and seek out the support you truly need. While difficult, being a proactive advocate for your mental health leads to satisfaction and strength over the long run.

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