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I’ve been with this therapist for almost a year with the initial purpose of recovering from an abusive relationship. A lot of other stuff in life (loss of job, sick parent, etc.) has happened during the period and she has been the main support for me living in this foreign country. We have built trust and attachment, which allowed me to open up and heal.

However, I had to move back to my home after a prolonged job search and things have been a bit rocky with her ever since.

We discussed the move and arranged the transition in the last 4-5 sessions. She said it would be better if I could find somebody I could meet in person. She also offered to do remote Skype sessions just like last time during my visit in my home country for two months to take care of my sick parent. When I finalize my job search and settle down in a new city, and she would transfer me to a new therapist if she could find any there. The last in-person session was good. We said goodbye. I could see she wanted to hug, but I was not ready for that. I wrote a short poem for her which I planned to send to her via a post card once I settle in.

Problem: However, the second to last session she commented something like I took more time than other people to process things. That comment was in sharp contrast with her previous encouraging and non-judgmental attitude. I was frustrated and said that “maybe I’m built this way!” But I was deeply bothered. I felt it was a breach of trust as we had dealt with similar conflicts before and she knew that blame is a strong trigger for me. So why was she doing that? Why the sudden change? Was she trying to sabotage the relationship because I was leaving? I planned to bring this up in following sessions but found it very difficult.

A more disturbing problem came up two days ago when we had the first remote session. I noticed significant change in her attitude. And I became very depressed afterwards.

In the beginning of the session, she complained about the audio quality, tapped her fingers on the desk while I talked, and said she didn’t know how she could be helpful for me. I felt rushed and dismissed but was again unable to speak up. I tried to pull myself together and talked about something related to the abusive relationship. She listened as usual and I felt a bit relieved. She said that we could talk more and I scheduled another session next week with her. She ended the session in a hurry without the routine of closing up.

Immediately the session I couldn’t get out of my bed for the rest of the day. I had really bad sleep in the last few days. I couldn’t concentrate and do my job search as planned. It was the first time I was actually much worse after meeting her.

I did some reflections and realized that this therapeutic relationship is coming to an end and I have been trying to avoid it. As much as she had helped me deal with my avoidance pattern in my previous relationship, this time she could not be standing by me any more.

Question:

I’m not sure if this remote therapy is going to do me any good. I’m saddened, hurt, resentful and scared of future sessions. I would like not to have the next session but a brief phone call or an email to let her know how I was impacted. A potential outcome of this conversation is to end the therapy for good. How do I bring this up?

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Breaking up with a therapist feels so tricky. You share so much personal stuff, it feels like such a personal relationship. But you need to remind yourself : this is a job for her. It doesn't mean she doesn't care about you, but at the end of the day it is a job, it's not like breaking up with a friend, a partner, or family. People "break up" with their therapist all the time, they're used to it. It's normal. Plus, you already talked about getting a new therapist, this was always meant to be a temporary solution. It's okay to say this solution isn't working for you. Someone professional and reasonable will have zero problems with that.

You don't owe her X number of sessions just because you agreed to it. Or because she has helped you so much in the past. She helped you because it was her job, you paid her for it. If this relationship isn't helping you anymore, it is totally okay to put a stop to it.

You have some options. You could either tell her at the start of your next appointment that this will be your last session together (and make the focus of this appointment to wrap things up with her). You could also warn her in an e-mail :

I just wanted to warn you that our next session will be our last. The remote session we had didn't work for me, and since this was always meant to be a temporary solution I'd prefer to focus my time and energy on finding a therapist where I now live.

It maybe feels even trickier for you, because you weren't happy with her attitude in the last session you two had, but you're not obligated to get into that. The first couples therapist me and my partner went to, we didn't like how he proposed we settle our arguments. We just told him we wouldn't be coming back, we didn't tell him why. You can even be honest that your session has left you in a funk the next couple of days, but blame the technology. You don't have to go in the details of how she was the problem (unless you're absolutely comfortable telling her that).

  • thank you for your answer. I thought about your suggestion. The thing is if I didn’t truly trust that she cares about me this therapy would not have been a successful one. I’m grieving for the loss of the relationship and also I’m deeply hurt and troubled by the last session. At the same time I’d like to have an amicable ending with acknowledgement and gratitude for having this journey with her. I don’t think I have the strength to meet as scheduled but I plan to write her an email about it a few days before the session. – Storm Sep 16 at 10:48
  • @Storm I proposed going to one last session because you've been seeing her for a year, and as a whole you had a good relationship with her. In those cases, it's often the norm to do one last session to wrap things up (I'll add this to my answer). But if you're not comfortable having any more sessions with her, that's fine too. Do e-mail her as soon as possible though, don't wait until a few days before the next session. She's holding that spot for you, she's maybe saying no to other patients. The sooner you tell her you're not keeping your appointment, the best. – MlleMei Sep 16 at 10:55
  • Thank you! My initial thought was to talk about my concern in the session with her as well. However, in the last session the dynamic was so difficult that I couldn’t speak up my mind. I don‘t have confidence that this coming session would be any different... i also have an important job interview before the session and could not afford emotional conversations even via email before that. – Storm Sep 16 at 12:35
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I had really bad sleep in the last few days.

I believe you need rest.

I was in a similar situation. As MileMei rightly suggested, 'it is a job' for her.

Anyway, I will tell you what happened in my situation and perhaps you could draw a conclusion.

After almost 7 months of therapist relationship, it was time to bid fair-farren. I told him (it may be different because my therapist was a guy, and I am a guy too, so we shared a different language), so yea, I told him that this is going to be really difficult going forward and that when I move, I would like to continue sessions as and when required. He agreed.

After a while, he said "It would be better if you find someone with whom you can talk face to face.". Rings the bell?

I was upfront in asking, "Are you suggesting that I am on my own? Because, my therapy duration has ended and so have the meds, regarding CBD, I can handle things too but maybe I just feel that I do not have to repeat myself to you because you know a whole bunch of things about me, to others I will have to.".

He asked, "Are you ok?", I was shocked, "Ok. that was random but, why?", he said, "I will be upfront as you were. We therapists are like friends, not friends. We are result oriented and when we know that we cannot get the desired result via a medium that is phone, we do not want to proceed with that case.".

I felt bad because I was referred to as 'case' but that was the shock of reality I needed to hear. I politely suggested, "I will find someone here.".

You know, in my case, and possibly in your case, the therapist is correct in their position. They put efforts to get a desired outcome, they are comfortable with a certain way of accomplishing that. We cannot take that away from them or impose our way on them. I figured that when you have to part, simply say "I will find someone here.". And actually do that.

This way, you are not only helping yourself, but also, your therapist. :)

Good luck!

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