Thinking about ghosting your therapist? Don’t!

Urges to quit therapy early are really common. Researchers call this premature termination: dropping out of therapy before you’ve reached your goals. A 2014 study suggests that one in five clients will drop out of therapy before completing treatment. Those numbers are even higher for individuals in their early 20’s and for those seeking therapy for personality and eating disorders.

There are many reasons for dropping out of therapy, some of which include:

  • Unrealistic assumptions about therapy

    • you don’t know what’s required of you

    • you don’t want to do the work

    • you don’t understand the time commitment

  • Finances: therapy is often a huge financial investment in yourself!

  • Transportation

  • Difficulty being vulnerable: Not wanting to reveal traumatic experiences, talk about difficult emotions, or embarrassing things you’ve done

  • A poor fit between the client and therapist

Dropping out of therapy early is usually super ineffective, for a lot of reasons. Maybe you’re feeling better and think that you’ve reached your goals, but the changes might not be sustainable. Psychoanalysts call this the flight into health, which is when clients respond “too quickly” to therapeutic interventions and feel they are no longer in need of help. Talk to your therapist about why they ask for a time commitment and make sure you’re both on the same page in terms of treatment goals.

Having urges to ghost your therapist totally makes sense. Few people enjoy ending relationships. Ghosting is super ineffective though, particularly in the therapeutic relationship.

First, as a client you totally have a right to not like your therapist or their approach to therapy. Ghosting your therapist reinforces your fears that you can’t tolerate ending relationships, or that you don’t have a right to give people negative feedback.

Second, your therapist needs feedback! If they said something that bothered you, if you don’t find something helpful, or even if you don’t like them, your therapist needs this information. Good therapists want to get better, and the only way for them to get better, is for clients to tell them why they want to leave.

The good news is there are things you can do to make sure you’re getting the most of treatment and, if you quit, are making an effective choice:

  • Therapists should talk about the typical length of treatment during the first few sessions so that you can make an informed decision to participate in, and commit to, therapy. If your therapist has not had this conversation with you, it is okay to ask!

  • Urges to drop out are normal, but quitting isn’t always effective. Talk to your therapist if you’re wanting to drop out. They might be able to offer a helpful perspective.

  • Know what your goals are! Therapeutic goals should be decided on collaboratively. This means that you and your therapist are on the same page and you both know what you’re working on. This is where tracking your progress can be helpful!

  • If you’ve been in therapy before, tell your therapist what has worked well for you or caused problems in the past.

  • If you don’t like something that your therapist is doing or saying, tell them! They might be able to change things for you.

If you find yourself asking “How do I quit therapy?” or wanting to ghost your therapist, we really encourage you to talk things through with them. Maybe there are simple solutions to your concerns. If nothing else, having the conversation keeps the door open between you and your therapist. That increases the likelihood that they’ll want to work with you in the future.

Jenell Effinger