How to start over with a new therapist

Starting over with a new therapist can be a stressful and confusing situation to navigate.

Inevitably, there are a lot of important questions that come up.

For one thing, how do you tell your therapist that you’re thinking about ending things? Or do you have this conversation at all?

And, when you finally do pull the plug, how do you avoid ending up right back where you started with your new therapist?

These can be hard questions to answer, especially because no one ever seems to talk about the “right way” to break up with your therapist and begin working with someone else.

But these questions are important ones. The work you do in therapy holds the potential to be life-changing and, at the very least, you want it to be effective.

How do you know when it’s time to end things with your current therapist?

Determining if your therapist is a good fit can take time.

If you’re just getting started with a new therapist, give it at least a few sessions.

It usually takes several sessions before you and your therapist hit your collective stride. There’s also the unfortunate reality that, at the outset of counseling, things often end up getting worse before they get better. Talking though painful situations and confronting difficult emotions sometimes sets us back a bit at the start.         

Additionally, first and second sessions are usually a time for your therapist to get to know you and to identify your goals for counseling. These early sessions are not always representative of how he or she will work with you in subsequent sessions. Plus, the process of sharing intimate details of your life with a virtual stranger is inherently unsettling, making it hard to make a truly fair assessment of your therapist at the outset of therapy.

Still, the importance of finding a therapist who’s a good fit for you can’t be overstated. If you’re not feeling heard, understood or validated, it’s likely time to cut ties with your current therapist.

How do you tell your current therapist you’re moving on?

There’s no rule that says you must tell your counselor you’re ending your work together. However, having this conversation can be helpful for a couple of reasons.

First, your current therapist may not have any idea that you’re less than satisfied with how things are going in therapy. Sharing this with him or her is your opportunity to communicate what you’re looking for in therapy and could bring about helpful changes in your work together. Taking this approach may also save you from having to start all over again with a new therapist, which is never ideal.

That said, sometimes the fit between client and therapist just isn’t right. Most of the time, when this is the case, you just know it’s time to move on and start fresh with a new therapist.    

How do you move forward with your new therapist?

When starting out with a new therapist, it can be helpful to share about your previous therapy experiences. I always ask my clients about what’s been helpful for them and what hasn’t been so helpful in their work with other therapists so that I can I build on what’s worked well for them in the past. 

Keep in mind that starting over with a new therapist generally means starting back at the beginning. Signing a release of information, which allows your previous therapist to share his or her notes with your new therapist, is one way (at least in theory) to pick up where you left off in your previous work. The downside to this option is that your former therapist’s notes will unavoidably color your new therapist’s impressions of you and your situation, which is certainly not ideal, especially if you’re looking for a fresh start with a new therapist.

It’s natural, of course, to want to speed the therapy process along, especially after you’ve made the decision to start over with a new therapist. But it’s important to remember that therapy truly is a process, and building a therapeutic relationship takes time. In the end, though, it’s often the process itself that yields the most meaningful and lasting results.

Are you looking to start fresh with a new counselor? Call Charlotte Counseling & Wellness today to learn more about working with us.

Matt Smith