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7 Tips for Changing Therapists

Psychotherapy is a great treatment option for virtually any mental disorder or mental health concern, as well as life and relationship issues. Decades’ worth of research have proven its effectiveness, at least when you’re working with an experienced therapist who knows their stuff and uses empirically-backed techniques.

But what happens when you need to change therapists? We all need to change therapists from time to time, so how do you start over with a new therapist? Where do you begin? What do you do? And what do you look for in your new therapist?

Changing therapists can be a daunting, anxiety-inducing process. There is no “right” time to change therapists. You do it when you feel like you’re treading water with your current therapist, or you’re just not seeing the progress you’d like in therapy. With that in mind, here are 7 tips for changing therapists I recommend.

19 Comments to
7 Tips for Changing Therapists

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  1. My Tip:
    Even if you tell your T, and ask for a referral, your T may not want to let you go.
    So, expect to get NO referral or a long, unhelpful listing vs. a personal recommendation.
    Expect that the T will offer to try something new or read a book, so as to better help you with the issue. The T who thinks “I can fix anyone with anything” can be hard to get away from.

    You have to TRUST your instinct that you need something different, even if you like the current T. This can be very hard to do if you’ve always doubted yourself, or misjudged people.

    Be prepared to talk to a LOT of frogs before you find the right one.

  2. While these tips are good, and of course it is your decision and you are not obligated to give your reasons, consider, too, that any good therapist will want to discuss your desire to quit/change as a treatment issue. Perhaps a person’s desire to cut and run has more to do with getting to the (painful) heart of the matter or something about the therapist which touches a nerve in the nature of (possibly healthy and helpful) transference.

  3. And that, AF,would be their choice.

    It would be nice to leave a therapist without getting that babble about avoidance, transference, blah blah blah.

  4. Hi. I am confused. I asked for a copy f my records before leaving therapy and was told that “per policy and per CT state law, I am not allowed to have my records directly. They can only be forwarded to another clinician.” Is this true? I find this hard to believe in this day and age.

    Thanks for the article and any info. you have on this issue would be greatly appreciated.

    • In Florida the same thing is said. I checked laws regarding mental health and found the reason a copy of your record can be given to another clinician. Copy is NOT given to patient/client if current treatment team believes what’s in the record could hurt you mentally or cause you to become unstable.
      One way to get a copy for yourself is to get a friend’s or family member’s address to have the copy sent to, in care of Dr Smith. Idid that to get a copy of mine which I then gave to my then therapist.

  5. I had no problem leaving a few therapists after one or two sessions. One male psychiatrist asked me (I was 22) if I was breast or bottle fed on the first history intake interview and I thought he was coming onto me.

    Another told me that my bulimia did not compare to other women who had kids with spina bifida, leukaemia etc.

    Another (work place therapist) actually told my employer who told my mother who worked at the same place, all my deepest secrets. I only found out when my mother told me, the therapist did not discuss it with me. I was 24 and so distressed about it.

    Another threw a hissy fit when I asked her how many kids she had (I was pregnant at the time) and the last one terminated me, lucky I already thought she was a complete nutter. I later learned she had a nervous breakdown and moved onto another career.

    No wonder I thought my current therapist was ok. She seemed normal compared to the rest of them.

    Honestly, if you don’t like your therapist, you have the right to simply never come back and find another one. They won’t stalk you and hunt you down. Unless you are attached, especially in a negative way, which is not unlike the Stockholm Syndrome.

    Then it is far more difficult.

    Therapy Unplugged

  6. To know how and when to change therapists, you need to be emotionally stable enough not to need a therapist.

  7. LOL @ David. Never was a truer word spoken.

  8. These are some good tips, both in the article and the comments. Therapists are professionals, but they’re also people with their own problems. But, as the client, their problems are not your problems.

    @Sonia, you’ve had some interesting therapists. Wow.

  9. Hi Pam,
    My best friend had a therapist who was murdered by a client, after he moved way up north of Australia. I used to go with her occasionally when she saw him as we kind of had a very intense friendship. He was a most gentle, kind man who helped us both.

  10. @harvest, you have the right to get your records, unless the therapist can substantiate that not doing so would be harmful to you. Here is a link to the CT law regarding this:

    Submit the request in writing, and if you have another provider who could receive them in case your therapist is unwilling to provide you with your information, include that contact info and cc the new therapist. If the therapist is still unwilling to give your records to you or a representative, consider following up with advocacy services:

  11. AF’s admonishment about leaving to escape the painful is the weapon used by many a therapist to control many a client.

    The problem with this type of “interpretation” is it intrinsically invalidates and diminishes to the client. Simply the dynamic of the therapist as the “correct” interpreter of events defeats client empowerment.

    The client’s perceptions of the here and now should be acknowledged and respected. Therapists too often have their noses so deep in their theory books that they abandon common sense.

  12. I have been in therapy for over 2 years. My T has helped me through some difficult times and has been very supportive. We are a good fit. But i have developed feeling s for my T for the past year. We have discussed this, but I still have them and I am afraid I am becoming too dependent on him thus the reason for wanting to move on.

  13. If your therapist doesn’t do it for you in the first few sessions, then leave.
    There are plenty of good ones out there.
    Don’t avoid the hard stuff though by using that as an excuse.

  14. I am not religious and was referred to a therapist by my doctor. I told her when I met her that I didn’t want god to be part of my therapy. She said she might bring it up from time to time and I said OK because my doctor said she knew her. Big mistake. I later found out my doctor only met her once. Then when I was in crisis when I thought an abusive man was going to hurt me she ended the session by asking me to think about god. I wonder the ethics of a therapist who would take a dark hour to manipulate me like that. I told her that she should not take non-religious clients. She says she likes the challenge. If she wants to be a missionary great. But leave me out of it. I blame myself because I know Jesus freaks (no offense) can’t help it and I should have known better than to see her. But I think she was unprofessional and manipulative to take someone in need to further her own aims instead of saying flat out, I can NOT not be religious so we wouldn’t be a good fit. Now I’ve spent it of time and don’t know where to go to start new.

  15. I saw the same therapist for a little over 2 years, though the last few months felt really unproductive. My (former) partner and I saw a couple’s therapist for about 9 months and I felt like I learned a lot more in that therapeutic relationship than I had in 30 months with my individual therapist. My partner and I ultimately broke up and I discontinued therapy altogether for several months for financial reasons. I’d like to go back; is it weird (from the therapist perspective) if I want to work individually with my former couple’s therapist? Does it matter? I have no problem with it, but I’m afraid to reach out to my former couple’s therapist to see if he’d see me individually because I don’t know if that’s weird/strange/unethical/etc in the profession. Insights?

  16. I had not given a thought to it in an very long time as I figured things don’t always go great in this life.
    When I was pregnant a therapist went out of her way to avoid me when someone made a mistake about my appt. It could have been them or me. I had a high risk preg & didn’t need to be ignored.
    Another therapist,upon hearing I was done with therapy said “it’s you not me.” Very inelligent & kind at the same time.
    Another therapist said unusual things to me while moving too close to me. He was off in many ways.
    And wasn’t kind when he said unusual things.
    It felt like he was being a turn off on purpose
    but make sure to give reasons why I should go back to therapy even though he scared me so much.
    Intution tells us when someone is up to something bad. Who needs to pay for horrible treatment. Unfortunately we can get that for free in many places. (I called agencies who heard the whole story, what happened since the 3rd visist, and
    said to report it.)

  17. I have been with my current therapist for a year and a half. She has treated me holistically and with a focus on my spirituality, I feel as though I have made a great amount of progress with her. Unfortunately, there have been a couple of incidents in the last month where my trust in her has been broken and where she has done things that have seemed unprofessional (though not unethical). I’ve confronted her on these incidents but still feel as though the relationship might be too damaged to continue.

    I currently have booked sessions with two other therapists. While I am not completely sold on leaving therapy with my current therapist, I think going to these other sessions might help me gain perspective. What I haven’t decided yet is whether to mention to my current therapist my reconnaissance plans or to delve into the issues I have with my current therapist with the therapists I’m meeting. I hope I will find a better fit, will feel more confident in my decision to stay on with my current therapist, or will decide that I do not need therapy at all.

  18. I have a wonderful therapist but now I’m moving across the country (my choice to accept a new job). Finding a new therapist is one of the most stressful parts of the move. Fortunately there is enough time to go through termination before I leave the area. It’s bittersweet.



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