Angela had been in therapy for the last year; having lost her grandfather, who’d raised her, just as the pandemic hit, and then losing her job as a result of severe cutbacks, she knew she needed professional support to ensure her mental wellness.
“I didn’t realize how far I’d gone,” she remembers. “My grandfather had been sick for a while, and I was the one taking care of him, so I think I’d been grieving long before he went away.
“And then COVID… and then losing my job… it was like boom, boom, boom. I was a puddle. There were days I’m not sure how I kept breathing.”
At her worst, Angela says, she was unable to take a shower for a straight nine days.
Her mother finally decided to intervene, and brought her to the hospital the next day, where Angela was connected with a team of mental health professionals.
She would attend weekly sessions, privately, for the next 12 months, and attend group sessions every couple of weeks as well. After a year of regular attendance, Angela began to consider calling it quits.
Angela found that quitting therapy required more thought than beginning it. “I couldn’t figure out whether I was at this point relying on therapy and that’s the only reason I kept going,” she explains. “I kind of wanted to see how I’d make out on my own.
“But then I also had this nagging feeling like, ‘Are you just making it up that you want to go at it by yourself?’ or like, if I was actually in recovery and ready to make the leap into a healed life.”
If, like Angela, you’re not sure whether you’re having a great few weeks or if you’re absolutely and actually ready to stop treatment (even if just for now), here are some things to consider:
Am I taking full responsibility for my present and my future?
If you’ve been feeling great after the last few, or several, sessions – wonderful! Perhaps you recognize that you’ve developed new skills, that you’re coping better, that you’re more confident about who you are and forgiving of where you’ve been.
All of those feelings are magnificent, and could certainly explain why you’re feeling ready to give up therapy for now. But how can you be sure?
When circumstances arise that are unexpected or disappointing, and you actually roll with the punches and are able to respect both your emotions and your logic, that’s a good sign. If you are not ruled by your negative thinking (note: this doesn’t mean you don’t have negative thoughts at all, just that you listen to your other perspectives too and not just the bad ones), then you’re likely ready to stop your sessions for the moment, or forever.
Does therapy hurt more than it’s helping?
There are a couple of things to think about here.
Talking can be uncomfortable. It is not always fun. It can be terrifying or sad to look at your past in the face and try to resolve trauma and come to a better way of being.
Sometimes, many people want to quit because it hurts so much. Too much.
In that regard, keep going. Sometimes, you have to power through this initial discomfort to get to relief. Leaving one’s comfort zone is necessary for growth and evolution.
But, on the other hand, if you’ve not connected with your therapist, if it’s just not a fit, maybe it’s not the therapy that hurts. Maybe you need to find another mental health professional who hears you, understands you, and helps you find peace. Remember that although many therapists have the same credentials, they’re still people too – some people we like, some we don’t. It’s important to be able to connect with this person we are choosing to trust.
So maybe it’s not therapy itself you need to quit, just this particular therapist.
I can’t really afford this. How can I justify this expense? Can’t I just read a book?
While reading up on what can assist you is always a benefit, you must be careful that you’re not gravitating toward literature you want to read, or closing the chapter on something you just don’t feel good about reading.
A therapist can hold you accountable. A therapist can challenge you. A therapist can explain what you may misunderstand from the pages of a book.
Yes, a therapist is a financial investment. It’s a commitment.
But you wouldn’t be the first to be financially challenged, so if money is an issue, talk with your therapist and see if there’s any room for negotiation. A credible therapist will try to do what they can, within reason, to help you get the support you require.
Have I gotten out of therapy all I can?
If you truly feel stable, capable of coping with some of what have historically been your greatest challenges, if you feel you’ve “maxed out” on what you can get out of therapy… then yes, you may be ready for a temporary or permanent break.