The Transition: Finding and Keeping a New Therapist

A few weeks ago, my therapist of many years retired from direct therapy and moved into a managerial role. That means that a few weeks ago, I not only lost a serious piece of my support system, a repository of a great deal of knowledge about my mental health and history, and someone who knew my coping techniques inside and out, but also someone that I would consider a friend or at the very least an ally.

I’d spent more time with Rebekah than I have with many people I today consider my friends. An hour once a week for over 4 years is a lot of time to invest in a relationship with someone. Add in the fact that those hours are times of serious emotional work, when you show your therapist a lot of vulnerabilities and work through the harder parts of your life, and this is someone that you have to trust in a serious way, not only to be good at their job but also to handle you and your feelings gently and respectfully. You have to learn that this is someone you can feel safe and comfortable with, maybe someone you can even enjoy your time with.

When most relationships end, it’s understood to be a time for some grieving, for some element of hurt and sadness. For some reason the therapist/patient relationship is still viewed pretty strictly in business terms, that they are providing a service and you are paying them. That’s strictly true, but it’s also true that there are many service providers that get close to their clients: massage therapists, manicurists, hair stylists…all sorts of people that you see on a regular basis will come to know you over time, and many people see those relationships as important in and of themselves, beyond the service that gets provided.

While finding a therapist that is a good fit for you is hard in any circumstance, it gets significantly harder when you’re comparing them to your old one, the one you liked so much, your friend. Trying to start fresh after having built up a level of understanding and history with someone is incredibly difficult.

Here’s what I’m telling myself:

This is hard. It gets to feel weird and uncomfortable. If the new therapist keeps feeling weird and uncomfortable in a month or two months, this might not be the right fit.

Finding a new therapist is a challenge no matter what, but finding one to fill the shoes of someone you thought was just about perfect is even harder.

No one has failed if you decide this isn’t right for you and move to a different person. No one will ever replace the therapist you liked so much. If you’re lucky you’ll get a new friend. If not, you got someone awesome to help you through some of the hardest times you’ve had so far.

It’s certainly weird to feel as if I need to grieve for the ending of a patient/provider relationship, but I do feel that way. I miss someone who knew me so well, someone I trusted. I suppose what I’m trying to say is that the nature of the relationship between therapist and patient is a unique one. It would be nice to have an open discussion about the rules of the unique relationship.

4 thoughts on “The Transition: Finding and Keeping a New Therapist

  1. It sounds like one of those wierd-not wierd situations. One where you have to remind yourself that how you feel is legit, and if you need to grieve the passing of a key relationship then you do.
    I hope your search for a new therapist is fruitful and swift.

  2. Dianne says:

    I’m I. This same situation. My very good therapist if two years left due to a move out of state. It’s been devastating. We spent a lot of time talking about it and different scenarios to transfer to the new therapist. She spent a lot of time and thought transferring me to the “right” therapist. The new one and I have met twice. I hate it. It feels wrong. Wrong day. Wrong floor. Wrong time. Wrong office. And I don’t feel a connection. I feel as though I’m frustrating her because I keep saying that’s too personal to talk about with someone I don’t know or trust. It takes a long tim e for me to trust someone. Meanwhile I’m slipping back into my old habits, but she doesn’t notice and I’m not comfortable telling. I feel like I’m between a rock and a hard place.

    • oj27 says:

      I’m so sorry friend. That’s really really frustrating. I’m going to give you some contradictory advice if that’s ok:
      1. it takes time. Two sessions isn’t very many, so keep in mind that you’re still getting used to it.
      2. Trust your gut. If you’re feeling HATE not just discomfort, maybe find someone else.
      Change is the fucking worst. But there are other good therapists out there, and there is most likely one that will work for you. ❤ good luck

      • Dianne says:

        Thank you. I cancelled all therapy and groups this week. I just need some time to readjust. I know two sessions, now three, isn’t many. We just seem to sit and stare. She said last week she felt stuck as in how to help me. That’s not promising. I don’t really have a choice. This is who the clinic decided would be the best fit after my other therapist left. I’m feeling very chaotic in my thinking, but don’t feel I can go to her and explain.

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