You’re not always going to like your psychotherapist. In fact, most people go through phases during the psychotherapy process where their admiration and liking for their therapist will wax and wane. This can be based upon a number of factors, such as the type or difficulty of the material being addressed in therapy, the amount of stress you or the therapist may be experiencing, or something else altogether. These changing feelings toward one’s therapist are a normal part of the therapeutic process.

Some people, however, realize that either they’ve gotten as far as possible with their current therapist, or find out shortly after they’ve begun therapy that the therapist they’ve chosen isn’t right for them. Individuals often become anxious when they realize this, and many will stay with their therapist long after they should simply because it does take some effort and courage to end the professional relationship you have with them. Some therapists also don’t always make this as easy as they could, suggesting that you “work on” your dislike of them in future sessions. Some will even suggest that it could be therapeutic and beneficial for you to do so.

The fact is, some anxiety and stress is a normal part of therapy and you will find that you will not always agree with your therapist. Some therapists will push you and challenge your existing beliefs, and encourage you to work toward change in your life. The key is to recognize the difference between a short-term level of stress due to a specific issue you’re working on, or a minor disagreement, and a longer-term, more serious issue that is interfering with your treatment moving forward. This difference isn’t always easy to spot.

Starting with a new therapist, you generally should determine whether you want to work with the professional within the first three sessions. If, after the first three sessions, you feel you have issues with the therapist that haven’t been resolved, it may be time to cut your losses. It is unrealistic to believe that every therapist can work with every client, and vice versa. Simply let the professional know that you’d like a referral to a colleague (if you need a referral), and that you will not be returning. Most therapists will respond in a professional manner, and ensure that if you need a referral, they help with that. Some therapists may ask why you’re leaving, and you’re welcomed to answer them honestly or say you prefer not to say. It is up to you — it is your therapy and your choice in how much of that reason you want to share.

If you’ve been with the therapist for a longer period of time, but find that you’re just spinning your wheels week after week, that may also be an indication it’s time to move on. If, after discussing this concern with your current therapist and not finding any acceptable resolution, it may be advisable to consider changing therapists. Again, the best way to approach the issue is directly, in session, and ask for a referral if you need one.

Finding a therapist who will work with you, and not against you, is an important part of successful psychotherapy. A good therapist will act as a guide, a support, and a person who will challenge you when they know you’re ready to be challenged. Don’t settle for a therapist or professional where you feel you are butting heads more than getting work accomplished.