Yes, You Can Outgrow Your Therapist—Here Are 4 Signs It’s Time to Move On 

Photo: Getty Images/Lucy Lambriex
Have you ever stayed in a relationship for no real reasons beyond the other person knowing you, accepting you, and being used to all your idiosyncrasies (and you feel the same way about them)? Same, and I recently learned this stable-but-stagnant state isn't just reserved for romantic partners and friends. That's because it seems I've outgrown my mental-health provider…and now need to consider changing therapists.

That said, knowing when it's time to move on from your therapist and find another can be tricky business. Sure, your relationship with this person is professional, but they also know, like, all of your secrets. Also, this decision is probably one you'd prefer to go over beforehand with, yep, your therapist.

One simple litmus test to gauge whether changing therapists is something you should do now? If you're questioning the relationship and situation, it's a good sign. And, rest assured, this aha moment is a totally normal thing to happen. "Therapy is a relationship, and like any relationship, sometimes people grow and change together, and sometimes one person outgrows the other and realizes they need something different," says Alison Stone, LCSW.

Want more specific guidance that it might be time to find a new mental-health provider? Look out for the following four signs:

  1. You start looking for excuses to cancel appointments.
  2. Sessions feel like an obligation or chore.
  3. You no longer feel challenged or that you are learning new things about yourself.
  4. You've expressed curiosity about other modalities or interventions, and your therapist has been dismissive or unresponsive.

But if any or all of those signs are true for you, don't just assume it's time to write off therapy in general. Instead, consider which of the signs are hitting for you, and then go from there. For example, if you're curious about other types of therapy, consider exploring how you can implement trying something else. "If you're interested in pursuing a specific type of treatment that your therapist is not trained in, a different provider might be able to offer you a new opportunity for healing and growth," Stone says.

But no matter what you choose, don't ghost your therapist. You can express that you've outgrown them without needing to worry about awkwardness or hurt feelings. "Trust me, we can handle being broken up with,"  Stone says, advising patients to simply be direct. "It provides an opportunity to share with the therapist what you felt you did gain from your time together, but to also let them know what you felt was missing. Most therapists really value feedback, and they may even validate your concerns that the compatibility is simply no longer there."

This final call for closure is also a good time to evaluate your growth and pinpoint areas where you might like to improve moving forward. Plus, the therapist you've outgrown may be able to point you in the direction of another professional better suited to your current needs.

Well, if only these could go so smoothly and productively when I outgrow boyfriends.…

If you think it's time to break up with your therapist, here are some tips on how to go about it. Plus, three therapists share what they're actually writing down while you're talking. 

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