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Page Contents: When your psychotherapist seems inconsistent and psychotherapy feels unsafe.                    


When I asked my therapist about the therapy process, he told me I wasn’t the kind of person who needed long-term therapy. Then several months later when I was wanting to terminate therapy he said that I should be in therapy with him my whole life, so I could work on my intimacy issues with him. He said that if I left I would be sabotaging myself. When I asked him to explain, he then said that I should be in therapy for two years and it didn’t have to be with him. I asked him to share with me what he felt my issues were. He asked me what I was going to do with the information. I was perplexed by this question and responded with “get better.” The relationship deteriorated fast after this and I terminated the therapy, as I didn’t feel safe with him.
I feel I did the right thing in this situation, but needed reassurance from a friend (a therapist) to terminate the therapy.
When you are in therapy to work on issues and may experience transference, how do you know if you are sabotaging yourself by terminating the therapy or if you are taking care of yourself by terminating the therapy? How can patients educate themselves more to recognize what is unhealthy therapy and what is healthy therapy?

Elsewhere on this website, on the page called Termination of Psychotherapy, I discuss many issues related to the termination of treatment. Moreover, on the page called Choosing a Psychologist I say the following:


If for any reason you do not feel comfortable with the psychotherapy, be sure to tell the psychologist exactly what you are experiencing. Quite often, psychotherapy provokes uncomfortable feelings, known as a transference reaction, and the whole point of treatment is to deal with these feelings in the treatment, not to run away from them.

But if, after talking things over, you both agree that you should see someone else, then terminate psychotherapy politely and reconsider one of the candidates you have previously interviewed.


Your question points to the fact that sometimes a client will try to talk things over and will be left feeling unsafe. From what you have told me, it sounds as if your psychotherapist has been less than straightforward with you—to say it politely. You received inconsistent answers about the length of psychotherapy. And when you asked a legitimate question about your treatment issues, you received an evasive answer.

So, at least you tried to talk things over.

And there you have the answer to your ultimate question. If you make an honest effort to try to talk things over, and the psychotherapist does or says anything that leaves you feeling unsafe, then say goodbye and be confident you have done the right thing.

Note also that, if you choose to continue your psychotherapy with another psychotherapist, then your termination with the previous psychotherapist should be discussed as a primary, opening issue in your treatment. Being able to talk openly and honestly about what makes you feel safe and unsafe is, after all, one of the goals of any emotionally intimate relationship.


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Raymond Lloyd Richmond, Ph.D.
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