If you see a therapist regularly, you know that every session can be entirely different. Sometimes you've got a clear reason for being there, and other times you don't have anything specific to talk about, which can feel like a waste of time and money.
If you don't have any burning questions — nor seething rants — to delve into with your therapist, does that mean that you're done seeing her? Not necessarily, explains Aarti Gupta, PsyD, clinical director at TherapyNest, a center for anxiety and family therapy. There are plenty of very valid reasons to start seeing a therapist, and some people might seek therapy to help resolve a short-term goal, like coping with a breakup, Dr. Gupta says. If that's the case, and you feel you've reached a resolution, then it's probably okay to move on from therapy. "However, it could also be advantageous to take inventory of other unfulfilled goals and build on your recent success," she says.
Whatever you decide, Dr. Gupta cautions against quitting abruptly. "Therapy usually builds week to week, as most cognitive behavioral therapists require feedback from the previous week to tailor your future treatment plan," she says. And even though it might not feel like you're making tangible improvements each session, going continuously is part of the process. "Discontinuing therapy without notice doesn't allow for this process to unfold, and you may be selling yourself short of your growth potential," she says.
Many people will go in and out of therapy over time, which isn't ideal either. "Intermittent therapy can be an indicator of an unmotivated client, which is one of the biggest reasons for an unsuccessful therapeutic outcome," she says. But it is very understandable why some people opt to drop out and resume treatment from time to time.
For starters, going to therapy regularly can be quite a big financial commitment. It's normal for therapists to work with their clients to figure out a payment plan that allows them to get the support they need. So if it's a money issue that's keeping you from going, just tell your therapist and see what they can do to help.
Some people drop out of treatment because they plain don't like the therapist they're seeing, which is completely reasonable, too. But be honest about your motivation for leaving. If you don't communicate with your therapist that you'd like to move on and try someone new, it can leave them with a lot of unanswered questions, Dr. Gupta says. It's hurtful to ghost a romantic partner, and it's likewise disrespectful to ghost a professional who was committed to working with you.
If you do decide it's time to stop therapy, your therapist will probably schedule a few termination sessions, which "serve to reflect on how much you've achieved during your time together, while also recognizing what growth still needs to happen," Dr. Gupta says. The point of these final sessions isn't to make you question your choice, but rather to give you closure. "Your therapist might also help you set up a future plan with strategies you can use when confronting triggers, which brought you to therapy in the first place."
If you're on the fence about your current therapy setup, or feel like it's not working, it's important to be patient. Therapy isn't always easy or fun, and building up the courage to actually go in the first place is a feat. And, importantly, the end-goal of therapy isn't always to send you off on your own: Many people, for many reasons, find it necessary to have consistent sessions. You may have started out thinking you have an "issue" that you'll "fix" in a certain amount of time, and find out, instead, that keeping the standing appointment on your cal feels more comfortable.
Bottom line: Trust the process, your therapist, and yourself, and you'll know when it's time to get off the couch.