Seeing a therapist can be good for taking care of your general mental well-being and managing a mental health condition. Many people use psychotherapy (talk therapy) to help deal with issues such as stress, marriage problems, or the death of a loved one.

Sometimes a therapist isn’t a good match for you, or you’re not getting what you expected from your therapy sessions. Other reasons to consider changing therapists include moving away or changing insurance coverage. Sometimes, your therapist may end the relationship with you for those same reasons.

Because of the personal nature of therapy, you can feel awkward or unsure of whether it’s OK to change therapists. You might even hold off switching therapists for longer than you should.

But don’t worry — it’s OK to change therapists if the relationship isn’t working. Here’s what you need to know if you’re thinking about changing therapists.

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Can You Switch Therapists?

Like any relationship with a doctor or health care provider, it’s important for you to feel comfortable with your therapist. Psychotherapy is a collaboration between you and your therapist. A good rapport with your therapist is critical to your success.

Confidence in their ability to help you can make a difference in your treatment plan. If you don’t think your therapist is a good fit for your needs, it can hamper your progress.

Tips for Starting the Discussion With Your Therapist

You shouldn’t be embarrassed or guilty about changing therapists. However, it can still feel challenging. Here’s how to make the transition from your current therapist to a new one.

  • Recognize that it’s time to switch. Signs that it’s time to get a new therapist include dreading your therapy sessions or feeling resentful at your lack of progress. Some people may feel disappointed in the relationship with their therapist or sense a lack of engagement. Others may feel that they are not benefiting from the therapy or the therapist’s approach.
  • Tell your therapist as soon as possible. Tell your therapist at the beginning of your next session that you want to switch to another therapist. You can also send them a polite e-mail or call them on the phone if you’re nervous about doing it face-to-face.
  • Be prepared to answer why. Out of concern for your well-being or natural curiosity, your therapist might ask questions. For example, they may ask what concerns you have about them being your therapist or concerns about your therapy sessions.
  • Don’t feel obligated to answer. If you’re not comfortable providing an explanation, you can keep the reasons to yourself. If you are comfortable sharing, your answer may help them with other patients.
  • Request a copy of your record if it’s not available through an online patient portal. You’re legally entitled to review and copy your file, though you might have to pay copying charges. Your file can help you understand your progress and help a new therapist understand your needs.
  • Consider a break from your therapist instead. If you’ve been with the same therapist for several years, you may just need a timeout for a few months. If you decide that changing therapists is what you want to do, move to the next step.
  • Ask for a recommendation for a new therapist. If you have a positive relationship with your therapist, they can help you locate a new therapist who may better suit your needs or situation. If you don’t trust their judgment, choose a new therapist on your own.

Choosing a New Therapist

After your experience with your first therapist, it’s natural to feel nervous about choosing another. To find your best fit, follow these tips:

Ask for a referral

Ask a trusted doctor, family member, or friend for a referral. Community mental health centers and the psychology departments of a local college or university are good places to start. Or call your health insurance company and ask for a list of therapists or practices who are in the network.

You can also look up psychologists through the online psychologist locator from the American Psychological Association. Or find a psychiatrist through the online locator from the American Psychiatric Association.

Ask about insurance and fees

Before you book your first appointment, make sure your new therapist takes your insurance. Some therapists don’t take new patients who aren’t in an approved plan. If your insurance has a deductible — or if you need to pay out-of-pocket — ask what the therapist charges for each session.

If you’re paying out-of-pocket, ask about payment options.

Ask about their areas of expertise

You want your new therapist to match your needs. Tell them about your issues and ask how much experience they’ve had dealing with patients who have similar issues. It is helpful to work with a therapist familiar with the topics you will discuss, such as LGBTQ health or childhood trauma.

Ask about their personal experience

You may feel most comfortable with someone from the same culture as you or who has gone through similar life experiences. You may feel more comfortable talking with someone of a specific gender or age range. These preferences are helpful to consider at the beginning of your search.

Find out what kind of treatments a new therapist offers

Different issues can require different therapy and counseling treatments. Ask a potential new therapist what type of treatment options they offer for your needs.

For more information about therapy and other mental health services at UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital and UPMC Western Behavioral Health, call 1-877-624-4100 or 412-624-1000.

resolve Crisis Services provides free 24/7 counseling and support to all Allegheny residents. Call 1-888-796-8226 or visit our walk-in center at 333 North Braddock Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15208.

How to choose a psychologist. American Psychological Association. Link.

About UPMC Western Behavioral Health

UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital is the hub of UPMC Behavioral Health, a network of community-based programs providing specialized mental health and addiction care for children, adolescents, adults, and seniors. Our mission is to provide comprehensive, compassionate care to people of all ages with mental health conditions. UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital is a nationally recognized leader in mental health clinical care, research, and education. It is one of the nation’s foremost university-based psychiatric care facilities through its integration with the Department of Psychiatry of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. We are here to help at every stage of your care and recovery.