“I definitely still need therapy. What do I do?”
This is Crazy Talk: An advice column for honest, unapologetic conversations about mental health with advocate Sam Dylan Finch. While not a certified therapist, he has a lifetime of experience living with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Questions? Reach out via Instagram and you might be featured.
About 6 months ago, I ghosted my therapist. I felt like I didn’t need therapy anymore, so I kind of just… bailed. It felt easier at the time to disappear than to have an awkward breakup conversation with her. Fast-forward to now, though, and I actually think I made a mistake. I definitely still need therapy, especially now with the pandemic happening. What do I do?
First, a disclaimer, before I start handing out advice willy-nilly: Because I don’t know enough about the specific relationship you had with your therapist, what I’m sharing here is to help you sort through your feelings and next steps in a more general way.
However, if your therapist has engaged in any behavior that might be considered inappropriate, unethical, or illegal, please seek support outside of that relationship.
Assuming, though, that you left this relationship because you felt Fixed™, let me start by saying that what you’re describing is very relatable to me.
There have been plenty of times when I felt I didn’t need a therapist anymore (*cue up Stronger by Britney Spears*), only to discover a short while later that I might have been a little too hasty in my departure.
So sure, ghosting is not on my list of recommendations for how to end a therapeutic relationship.
I think most therapists would prefer a conversation, if only for the peace of mind that you’re still alive and well.
Therapists do care about their clients — even the most stony-faced ones!
But that’s also exactly why I think your therapist would actually be glad to hear from you.
Not only to confirm that you’re okay (well, relatively speaking), but to have the opportunity to explore why the relationship ended so abruptly, and how to better support you.
And yes, there might be a few awkward conversations around this. But discomfort in therapy isn’t always a bad thing! Sometimes it means we’re having the deeper conversations that we should be having.
Chances are, you’re not the only client that has dipped out, only to hesitantly resurface with an SOS email.
If your therapist is worth their salt, they’ll be glad to have the opportunity to work with you again.
It could make your relationship even better the second time around, too. Because ghosting, however quiet it might have felt for you, actually holds a lot of information for you and your therapist to sift through.
Is this “bailing” behavior common for the intimate relationships in your life? Was there a particular trigger that prompted you to end the relationship, or a topic you started to touch on that you weren’t ready to dig into? What discomfort were you looking to avoid in skipping that conversation?
Not to psychoanalyze you or anything (not my job!), but this is the juicy stuff that could actually be interesting to explore.
Some of us (definitely not me, nope!) can unconsciously sabotage our relationships — yes, even with our therapists — the moment that things become a little intense.
Rather than open ourselves up to that vulnerability, we jump ship. Fast.
But when we open ourselves up to the kind of intimacy that scares us the most? Amazing growth can happen.
Whether it was a case of overconfidence or a fear of intimacy (or a little of both!), it’s really encouraging to me that you’re willing to go back. Having that kind of vulnerability with your therapist could lead to some really transformative work together.
So I say go for it.
Shoot her an email or call the office to make an appointment. You can keep it brief, too — just ask to schedule with her and don’t worry about explaining what happened. You’ll have an opportunity to sort through your “disappearing act” during your appointment.
Bear in mind, too, that she may not have the same (or any!) availability as before. That doesn’t mean that she’s upset with you or that you should take it personally!
Be flexible, and remember that there are plenty of fish in the sea if, for some reason, she’s not able to accommodate you at this time.
Sam Dylan Finch is an editor, writer, and media strategist in the San Francisco Bay Area. He’s the lead editor of mental health and chronic conditions at Healthline. You can say hello on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or learn more at SamDylanFinch.com.