how to break up with your therapist and keep your sanity intact

Upon identifying his psychiatrist shamelessly sporting a thong at the beach, beleaguered Larry David, in an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, is compelled to terminate his therapy. The pretext he later uses to break free of the tainted relationship is simply that he is cured.  It was a perfectly legitimate dilemma in the universe of the neurotic.

But what happens when you actually are cured? And instead of it merely being an excuse, it's a valid reason? OK, so maybe we're never intrinsically healed.  Let's just say that you are ready to start dealing with issues on your own.

I'm currently in this predicament and I'm having a hard time figuring out what to do. I usually consult my therapist on matters of indecision, but now her astute advice, I fear, might be partial. As it approaches the time to bid adieu, I'm getting some serious anxiety when I think about telling her it's over. What if she believes I'm cheating on her or displeased with her guidance? This is all too much to manage for a recovering nut case. The situation has become so deleterious that I'm almost considering to continue our relations for a couple of more months just to avoid the confrontation and escape the awkwardness.

I've been seeing my psychologist for scantly half a year. I found her on a therapy website.  I saw her picture -  her appearance was comely, read her philosophy,  liked her methods – Gestalt and Psychodynamism, and got a good feel for her before our first meeting, thus eliminating the need for the usual trial and error screening process. It worked with my husband, so why not my therapist?

I sought her succor at the dawning of a wife life crisis. Recently wedded, the fear of living in the shadow of my overachieving husband grew more dismal each day. I had to do something soon lest the jealousy turn to rage and I end up a sexaholic misfit. I loved the guy and knew that my problems were existential, thus fixable within.

Among the breakthroughs that occurred under my shrink's tutelage was my decision not to return to school for an MA in a program I wasn't all that jazzed about. Originally, I saw her twice a month, but once she keenly observed this disinterest, I upped the sessions to every week. I had to make up my mind fast since the tuition was due in less than thirty days. As a side note, she did save me twenty thousand dollars over two years, the price of my would be graduate education. She probably unconsciously figured I'd have more money to spend on her, or so I cynically surmise.

Additionally, my therapist is excessively aware of my disposition to flight. She may think that I'm afraid of learning more about myself, and by halting her services prematurely I will be burying my issues even deeper.  She'll label me a self-commitment phobic even though she has expressed her aversion to diagnoses.

Could she use my weakness against me? Knowing that I have an inexorable guilt complex, might she exploit it by deeming me a bad weather patient? Or what if she claims that I just wanted a quickie and now that I got what I was looking for, am out the door?

The patient/therapist relationship is, incidentally, one of co-dependency or at least that's what the therapist banks on. Once the patient is able to manage their own problems, the therapist loses a job. Maybe there are some ruthless shrinks out there who are cognizant of the pathology that is present in dealing with their "Doras". I'd like to think mine is not. She is a good doctor who believes that it takes time to get to the core of the issues that have driven one to become psychologically challenged. The fact that my harried foundation is making the monthly payment on her BMW is serendipitous.

Still, what does it say that my paranoia is such that I worry she might, once I express my need to discontinue the therapy, be rueful about illuminating the school situation for me?   The logic being, if I were returning to school I would be dissatisfied and have more of a need to see her.  Such delusions on my part almost make me think that maybe it's not such a great idea to quit therapy after all.


Mel said...

It is an interesting situation you have got yourself in. Your a little unclear about why exactly you want to discontinue your sessions with your tharapist. You kept returning to the grad school issue. I think that if you feel that you are not gaining anything from your time you shouldn't continue to pay this person to sit and talk to you or even worse to sit and listen to you. Actually sometimes it would be nice to have someone just sit and listen. I think you should sit down and think about (maybe even write down so you don't forget) all the reasons why you would leave your tharapist. And all the reasons why you might stay with her. Maybe it would be good to shorten your visits to twice a month again and then go from there. I have mixed feelings about therapists. Sometimes I think they blow things up a little to keep you confused about yourself so that you will feel dependant. The do need to make a living off of this anyway. Just think to I really like spending money to listen to her advice? If you don't have any overwhelming issues then I don't think you should continue. If you are just worried about the confrontation all you have to remember is that after you tell her that you are discontinuing her services that you will never have to see her again. Unless you live in some small town or something. If you have a spouse you could tell her that you hubby wants to start doing therapy together with "his therapist" which of course he doesn't have. Anyway grow some balls and let her know how you feel.

christine zoe palau said...

Well, Wells, I'm happy to say that I just broke up with my therapist-- and as far as I know--my sanity is still intact. It wasn't so bad afterall. In fact, she was pleased with my progress and glad to bid me a fond farewell.

As for the balls, I think my life has been going quite nicely without them.

Anyway thanks for your comments; I think this blog will be my new form of therapy.

Chana said...

Hello Christine,
I found your page through a personal Google search that I did on "breaking up with your therapist"... You know... it never ceases to amaze me how "timeless" words are... and "the work" that happens "within them".
Considering this was written over 5 years ago, I want you to know that it spoke exactly to where I am today - years ahead...
So "thank you" for taking the time to post this.


christine zoe palau said...

Thank you, Chana!

I think it's funny that the most common Google search directing people to my moribund blog is "how to break up with your therapist." We're clearly not alone. :)

At any rate, I'm glad you connected with it.