Unlike most other relationships — where ghosting is frowned upon as an unhealthy behavior — it’s perfectly fine to ghost your therapist. Ghosting — the act of leaving a relationship with no notice, little in the ways of goodbyes, and no future contact — is commonplace in psychotherapy. In fact, I suspect a significant minority of patients do ghost their therapist, and most don’t feel all that good about it.
Here’s why it’s okay to ghost your therapist.
Ghosting is usually a negative behavior. While there are perfectly good, legitimate reasons to unexpectedly leave an unhealthy or abusive romantic relationship, friendship, or even family, for most people ghosting is simply a way of not having to deal with the negative consequences of their decision. It’s never having to say “good bye” because, well, you don’t feel like it.
It’s like choosing to bring home a stray dog, but then abandoning it outdoors when you don’t like all the responsibilities associated with pet ownership. One of the unspoken expectations — and I would argue, responsibilities — of a relationship is the belief that both parties will respect the other person enough to end the relationship like a mature adult. You know, with an actual conversation.
Yes, there are some times where such an ending cannot be had and perhaps ghosting is the right choice — like leaving an abusive relationship. But “feeling bad” about things ending or simply not wanting to have to deal with the messiness that typically accompanies the ending of many relationships are not legitimate reasons. Everyone feels badly when things don’t turn out the way we expected. It’s a natural part of life. Denying that experience is denying the full spectrum of living.
Patients have been ghosting therapists for decades, even before they invented the term to describe someone leaving a relationship unexpectedly and with no further contact.
Most therapists have undergone extensive clinical training and have years of experience to get where they are today. When you see a therapist, you’re seeing (mostly) a well-trained, experienced professional. The therapeutic relationship you have with that therapist is a professional one as well, even though it sometimes feels very personal and unique.
Because your psychotherapist is a trained professional, they know how to deal with the feelings of when a patient leaves the relationship without warning or further contact. It’s still not pleasant for most therapists to experience this, but at the same time, they understand that sometimes it’s what works best for the patient.
Psychotherapy is a professional relationship, completely unlike the relationships with you have with partners or friends. Your therapist’s training prepares them for the possibility of a patient who simply stops showing up to therapy. Maybe because they’re too stressed out to deal with therapy at the moment, or more often, because they’ve gotten everything they can from that particular therapist.
With time and experience, they’ve learned not to take it personally.
Your partners and friends, however, have never been trained on how to deal with ghosting. And in reality, it is a very personal and difficult thing for many people to understand and cope with. The end of a relationship is hard enough. When it’s ended with all lines of communication suddenly cut off, it puts even more stress and hurt feelings on the person who has been ghosted.
So while it’s okay to ghost your therapist, please think twice about ghosting others in your life. I get it — ghosting feels good to the person doing the ghosting. But it leaves out an important component of any relationship — the end. It’s like an author who decides to stop writing at the second-to-last chapter because he knows one of the main characters has to die. It may feel like the right thing to do, but it prevents the relationship from achieving its proper ending.