Therapist won’t let me quit

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Been in therapy for over 3 years and part of that involved some erotic transference. Marriage troubles have played a large part of the problem but recently my wife has decided she’ll do therapy with someone other than my current therapist. I feel my current therapy has stalled as I’m still having trouble w/ being emotionally attached to my therapist and decided that I will go ahead and move all my therapy to the new therapist my wife and I found. My current therapist has been very resistant to me stopping seeing her even though I’ve asked several times. She once asked in therapy if I give her too much power and it was thought provoking. But here I am attempting to think on my own…not ending therapy, just going to move on to the new therapist and the old therapist is questioning my trust for her and continuing to say “see on the 12th” (next appt). She won’t allow me to just end it an agree.

I do feel as though its been a tug of war between my wife and the current therapist and the one time my wife came it deteriorated into difficult situation after which my therapist said “I couldn’t stay in that marriage” and when I hired a lawyer and started to move forward with a divorce she told me “now isn’t the time to make life changing decisions”. And, as I said as I’ve decided to move to the new therapist and give my marriage one last shot now that my wife is open to couples therapy, my current therapist has become very strange in her responses. She told me “I know its a tough time, if you feel suicidal call 911″ when I’m not suicidal at all.

Just looking for some clarity. Thanks.

A: To my mind, the most important relationship is between you and your wife, not you and your therapist. It’s not important for you to be emotionally attached to your therapist. She is a temporary helper. It is important for you to open yourself up to being vulnerable with and attached to your wife. She’s the one you committed to “’til death do us part.”

One way to look at the current situation is that your therapy has been successful. Something has changed so that your wife is now willing to get into couples therapy with you. That sounds very promising. If that’s the case, it will be an important statement to your wife for you to take a stand and leave the therapist to work with her instead.

It’s not unusual for a partner in this kind of situation to want to go to a new therapist who does not have a history with the spouse. It’s an effort to start couples work on equal footing. I usually suggest that partners suspend individual therapy while they are doing couples work. I want the couple to work with each other and not be going back to their individual therapists to process what went on in the couples session. I want the couple to be talking directly with each other, not talking about each other with a phantom committee. Couples work is intended to help people who have been tentative and upset with each other communicate more effectively and, hopefully, with more love and care. For that to happen, the couples therapist has to provide safety and coaching and each member of the couple needs to take new risks in honesty and trust.

I’m fully aware that there are many ways to do clinical work and there are those who disagree with my position. It’s difficult and perhaps unfair to comment on another therapist’s work with so little information. She may well have a reasonable and reasoned approach. I can only offer my point of view. But do please remember that your therapist works for you, not the other way around. You hired her. You pay her. You are entitled to terminate her employment any time you wish.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 24 Nov 2010

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2010). Therapist won’t let me quit. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 25, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/11/24/therapist-wont-let-me-quit/