#910: “I ghosted on my counselor. Should I apologize?”

Dear Captain Awkward:

The academic institution where I work has a counseling center, and offers appointments for staff members at a slightly discounted rate (they’re open for the public, not just people connected to my institution). I’d been seeing one of the counselors there for a little over a year, though I’d make appointments week by week; I didn’t set up a standing one or anything. Well, my last appointment was set for mid-November, but she had a sick kid and canceled, and I said I’d get back to her about rescheduling and well, now it’s 10 months later……
I’m not seeing anyone else, and though I think maybe I should it’s just hard to start. and it’s hard to want to go back to my original counselor. [ I’m not sure we had the same goals, and I’m not sure if that’s okay. Like do the client’s goals always trump, or should I be listening to her cause she’s the expert?]

Anyway, all that aside, I see her a few times a week pass my office, and I feel bad for just stopping and not saying anything and it’s not a bridge I want to burn, but maybe it’s fallen down now? Can I send an email? What should it say? Just, “sorry I ghosted, but I’m okay-ish”? Or “I just haven’t been able to make the time/financial/emotional commitment this year”? “i hope you found someone else to make up that income”?
Don’t know how to end
(Female pronouns for both me and my counselor)

Dear Don’t Know How to End,

Counselors are trained to deal with people when they are stressed out, down, scattered, anxious, distracted, and when they have to seriously psych themselves up to make and keep appointments. I would venture that very little about a client “ghosting” is surprising. Since it sounds like you didn’t get a “Hey, did you still want to re-schedule our appointment?/Should I still keep that time window open for you?” check-in message from her, one could make the argument that you mutually ghosted on each other. After 10 months she’s almost certainly found other patients to occupy her time.

Since you run into her around work, and since it’s causing you some mild distress, sending her a message to say, “Hey, I realized that I never followed up with you after we stopped our appointments. Sorry about that! Hope you’re well,” isn’t weird. You don’t have to elaborate. She’ll say something like, “Don’t worry about it, hope you are well, too!” and it will be done.

If you do want to make an appointment and resume sessions with her (maybe even just one, to clear out the cobwebs), that’s not weird either. “I realize I never followed up when we stopped our appointments. I’d like to come back and speak with you if you have any openings?” Therapists are used to this, too. If you wanted to start back to therapy through work, you could ask to meet with someone else in the office. “I enjoyed working with (Counselor) but I feel like we went as far as we could go together. I think it would be useful for me to start sessions again. Would it be possible to make an appointment with someone else?” Your counselor/the other counselors will have been trained to not take this at all personally. It won’t reflect badly on her professionally or make it awkward.

As to your question about whose priorities are more important: Your counselor may be an expert in her field, but you are the expert on your own life. If therapy is not covering the topics you want, it’s okay to raise that directly:

  • “I feel like you are guiding our conversations to X topic, but what I really want to talk about today is Y topic.” 
  • I realize that X topic is part of the landscape, but Y feels more urgent to me at this time.
  • You could appeal to her expertise. “When I bring up X, you seem to be leading us to talk about Y. Why is that?” “Do you think there is some specific approach we should try?” 
  • You could ask directly for what you want. “It would be great if you could suggest solutions and keep redirecting our conversation toward solutions and things I could control.” “Today I just need to vent – it’s gonna really bug me if I’m venting and you automatically chime in with a tool or a solution.” 

You’re the boss of your own therapy, you won’t make it weird(er) if you say a simple hello to your former counselor, and you deserve to go back and get some counseling if you need it. I hope that helps.

33 comments
  1. Agree with everything the good Captain says. Stopping regular professional contact isn’t burning a bridge. If you’d stormed into her office and yelled abuse at her and then harassed her for 10 months, then you would have burned a bridge. At the end of the day, you are a person using a service. If you went to the same family run store every day for ages then stopped for a few months then popped back in, they’d be like “Hey! Haven’t seen you in a while, what’s up?” I bet your counsellor would be exactly the same.

    Obviously counselling is a far more personal professional relationship, but she is still a worker and you are still a customer of sorts.

    I’d also say that if you do want more counselling but are not overly enthused about going back to her, and if you don’t think she’ll work towards YOUR goals even if you use the scripts (and Captain is bang on the money here: no matter how qualified and experienced your counsellor is, it is her job to work with you on YOUR life, YOUR feelings and YOUR goals) there is absolutely nothing at all wrong with asking the service to book you in with a different counsellor because you want to try a different approach.

  2. LW, I had a similar situation, where I’d gotten so busy with work/travel/commitments, that I couldn’t schedule any appointments for a month or two, and then I just… didn’t make any more. For a long time. And even though I didn’t have any explicit disagreements with the way she conducted therapy, she was my first regular therapist, and I kind of wondered if another perspective or practice would be better suited to me, because I didn’t have anything to compare my experience to. In my case, since I didn’t have any specific problems with my previous therapist, I ended up emailing her and saying, “I appreciate what I’ve learned from you but I’d like to try and see if another perspective/approach would help, and wondered if, from what you know about me, you have any recommendations for other people to contact?”

    I felt really weird and awkward about it, and second-guessed myself a BUNCH after sending it, because it felt like “I”m REJECTING you,” (plus bonus, “please help me reject you”) but once she wrote back, it really wasn’t as bad as I’d made it out to be in my head. (Bonus: it turns out that another approach IS way better for me, and I’m really glad I tried.)

  3. SallyB said:

    Dear LW, take the Captain’s words to heart. She is absolutely correct! This is my first time commenting here, and I felt I needed to this time because I am a therapist. I wanted to reassure you, LW, that you have done nothing wrong. Any therapist worth their salt knows that there are any number of absolutely legitimate reasons our clients just stop coming one day–because any reason that matters to a client is legitimate, just so I’m being totally clear here! 🙂

    Clients get better and therapy suddenly stops being a priority because they are doing well (YAAYYY!!!!), insurance won’t pay for additional sessions, a cancellation like the one you mention happens and once the pattern/habit is broken it just never gets reestablished, there’s some upheaval in the client’s life and they just don’t have the time or energy for that one more thing of calling to explain it to their therapist, or the client and therapist just never really clicked to begin with.

    A good (or even a barely decent) therapist cares about their clients. It’s why we do this job! That means having compassion for the fact that sometimes life happens. That means rejoicing when they stop coming because they don’t need you anymore. (I often say that it’s my job to try to make myself obsolete for every client I see.) It means wanting them to find a different therapist if we just aren’t a good match….seriously, LW, I have actively helped a client find a different therapist because we could both see that it wasn’t working quite right despite best efforts on both sides. Therapists are like shoes. Sometimes you think you find a pair that is just the right style and color, just what you’ve been looking for! And then they rub blisters on your feet. You don’t have to feel like a terrible person because the shoes didn’t fit right, nor does it mean that the shoes are inherently bad for everyone. Someone else might adore those shoes, but they just aren’t right for you.

    If you want to schedule that final session you never had or give your previous therapist a call because it feels right to you, by all means do it! A good therapist should EASILY be able to hear you say that you felt like your goals and their goals weren’t the same last time and respond with something like, “I’m so sorry to hear that, but thank you for telling me. Let’s talk about how we can keep that from happening again!” (I am 100% serious when I say that the Captain’s statement here: “Your counselor may be an expert in her field, but you are the expert on your own life. If therapy is not covering the topics you want, it’s okay to raise that directly” is something I say, almost verbatim, to clients during my first session with them because I have learned from experience that actually doing that can be really daunting–even if you are a therapist yourself!)

    But, at the end of the day, LW? You don’t owe your therapist a thing. You paid for a service (or your insurance did, same thing in my book). And it sounds like that service was at least good enough that you see the value in therapy–Good! But if you want to see if the services provided by someone else suit your needs a little better? Do that!!

    • Elektra said:

      You sound like a great therapist, and your comment made me happy to read 🙂 I think everything you’ve said was spot on.

    • Lex said:

      This is spot on, especially the part about a therapists goal being to make themselves obsolete in a clients life. As a psychologist there’s a lot of planting seeds and never seeing them blossom, so I personally would love a quick note from a former client to say “I’m doing great! I don’t need you anymore!”.
      And don’t ever feel bad about not being a good fit with your therapist. The therapeutic relationship is so important. There needs to be a level of trust, acceptance and reciprocity there that isn’t common with other professional relationships. Any decent therapist understands that if it isn’t working out for some reason and if a client could best be served by seeing someone else, it’s not a slight on our skills or abilities. In fact, it’s our ethical responsibility to find a way forward for that client even if it isn’t with us.

  4. wholegraincroissant said:

    I am a current student in a counseling master’s program, and I can tell you that the Captain is absolutely right. I’m seeing my first clients right now (at a university counseling center no less), and I am being trained to expect that clients have things come up in their lives which prevent them making follow up appointments! I would not be angry or annoyed at a client who didn’t return for a follow up; if anything I would hope the best for them and hope I had not failed them in some way. I would also probably have several more clients lined up to take their place. All this is so, so normal.

    Speaking for myself, I’d be incredibly grateful if my client pointed out to me that I was missing what they saw as their goal or point of therapy. I agree with the Captain that you should find a counselor who will work on your priorities- or, if they have another theory on what to work on, someone who will talk with you about why and make every effort to collaborate on that. You are the expert on your own experience, and you deserve to feel like your therapist respects that.

  5. idk, no imagination today said:

    Yeah, that’s happened to me. What usually happens, whenever I get any kind of counselling through university, is that there comes a time when I “graduate” from it, and there’s some kind of code/way to end things. With my last counselor, who was awesome, she said she was retiring and opening up a private practice, but I could have the discounted “family” rate if I felt I needed to keep coming, and handed her card. I may have misinterpreted, but I think both of us knew I was never going to contact her. Counselors aren’t your friend, and they’re also people who get that people have all kinds of reasons for not keeping an appointment schedule.

  6. Theaz said:

    Last year I finally completed a course of sessions with a psychologist I had been more or less ghosting on for about 16 years. The person came into my life in my teens but after one or two sessions I would cancel the next one and flee. I wasn’t ready, I couldn’t take on the useful but difficult labour required to heal, shaking my unhelpful coping strategies would have been productive except in the meantime I’d not have many coping strategies at all and things were too unpredictable and difficult for that to be an option, I think, when I look back on it. I got in touch through my 20s and did the same thing – one or two sessions then poof. Even this time, 16 years after the original time, ook me 4 months of flaking on emails to schedule the sessions. When we finally connected – she got it. My ambivalence about everything, about whether she could help, about whether I was ready for change etc etc etc was part of what came up. It sounds in part like maybe in your case your counsellor’s missing the mark a bit about what your goals were contributes to your hesitancy in pursuing the new counselling relationship – it’s one thing to identify that some help would be good, it’s another to actively pursue the help if the evidence you have is that it isn’t actually helpful or doesn’t feel right or productive. I don’t think there’s any way this new therapist is upset or unhappy to hear from you if you want to reach out. I don’t think there’s a wrong form for reaching out to take, and it sounds like it might make you feel better. It also sounds like it could helpfully segway into a chat about what you are looking for or what your experiences have been in a way that makes this more useful for you, and/or why this communication has stayed on your mind or been tough in some ways on you. All of that might be helpful and soothing, hopefully.

  7. twomoogles said:

    Oh man…so, over 10 years ago, I was in college, going through a very very rough time. I did some horribly embarrassing ghosting, including scheduling an appointment with a counselor and never showing up, and writing a dramatic apology on the back of a test paper (I KNOW) for a professor because I hadn’t studied and knew nothing, and ended up failing out of school. Worked minimum wage jobs for 10 years, got my life/mental health together, and now…I’m working at that college in a professional capacity! I still live in fear that the counselors/professors I ghosted/freaked out emotionally at will recognize me. Even though they probably have dealt with a lot of extremely emotional undergrads and don’t remember me. I still want to hide under my pillow when I think of that time, though. Oh age 19, how I don’t miss you.

    • ruinousillusion said:

      I would bet if they recognize you they would be happy to see that things are going better for you now. Think about it; if you had a co-worker who was clearly having a stress meltdown and had to leave, you’d be concerned for them and hope that things would get better. Then if you saw them at another job ten years later and they seemed to be doing well, wouldn’t you have a little bit of pleased relief in your day?

      Also I don’t actually have any friends who didn’t have at least one dramatic feelingsmoment at an adult in college. I wound up calling professor’s home number while crying because there was no way I could be prepared enough to take a midterm, and having to ask his nine-year-old to please get his dad on the phone. College for my friend group seems to have been a time of learning how to prevent things getting to that bad a melting point, while people seemed to genuinely want to help cool the situation down as much as they could.

      I’m happy I was able to be there for some people, proud they no longer need that kind of support, and grateful to those who were able and willing to do the same for me. I bet that if they do remember you they will be happy they were part of you getting to a place where you’re doing so much better.

      • Dizzy said:

        I remember those meltdowns, what fun. The second semester of my freshman year, everything came to a head. My carefully cultivated veneer of CAN’T YOU SEE HOW WELL I’M COPING shattered almost overnight and I ended up having to throw myself upon the mercy of my professors, crying. I hated it, hated how weak I was but in practice? Not that bad.

        Bonus: I’m not close friends with one of the professors that I begged mercy of, and he’s never, ever done anything that implies that he thinks that there was anything bad or even unusual about my meltdown. It happens!

        • One of my stress meltdowns led to a professor I had an astronomically huge crush on (which I’m pretty sure he knew about) having to escort me to the on-campus medical centre. I won’t go into details, but if I did you would definitely understand why this is the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to me in my life.

    • Cypress said:

      A big +1 on the opinion that if one of your professors recognizes you, s/he’ll be delighted to see that you’re doing well! I myself would be elated to discover that any one of my students who have crashed and burned over the years had picked herself up, smeared on some burn cream, healed up, and carried on. (Nor, by the way, would I then perpetually be thinking, “Oh, there’s Former Student, who was such a hot mess ten years ago,” anytime thereafter that I ran into you. It would be more along the lines of, “Oh, there’s Former Student, and wow, her shoes are fucking fabulous today.”)

      On a side note, my favorite back-of-exam apology ever: “This is bad, and I’m really sorry. It was my roommate’s birthday yesterday and I’m still kinda drunk.”

  8. Kady said:

    Just wanted to note that if any of your discomfort stems from her not greeting you when she passes by, it’s very normal for therapists to not acknowledge their patients in public unless the patient approaches them to protect confidentiality.

    I also used to do billing for a psychologist, and ghosting happens. So does making a first appointment and not showing. I think therapists are used to this.

    • Violet said:

      Yes, this! As a therapist and having seen a number of therapists who were varying degrees of good fit for me, the code of ethics for chance encounters outside the office during an after a therapeutic relationship is for the therapist to leave it up to the client whether to greet/acknowledge but not to initiate that – a friendly nod/smile to a random stranger type thing isn’t an ethical violation, but the point is that the client should never be put on the spot, and should have control over whether they want to interact in an encounter outside the office. The client is not bound by confidentiality and is free to greet, and tell whoever they choose that they have been in therapy with so and so. But the therapist has to protect confidentiality. And that even if the client says “oh, don’t worry about it”, it’s still good practice. (Where it can be tricky is if you haven’t seen someone in a long time and you don’t register where you know them from while your brain is still processing that you recognize them but why…. especially if you have tons of acquaintances from community things…when i was actively practicing i had trained myself to be less extroverted.)

      • I had about three therapist, and one of them did an awesome thing “if we meet in public how do you want me to handle it”, and we spent a few minutes handling that. And my decision was “I don’t want to be ignored, but no need to greet me either” (the nod and go on response). As someone with very high anxiety, I think this is a very good thing to get out of the way, especially in a setting like the LW is in.

        • Yes! In my first year as a grad student I was seeing someone at the on-campus counseling center and that was part of our first conversation. She said it was up to me whether it was nothing, a nod, actual conversation, whatever. I’ve not had that conversation with my current therapist, but I expect it’d be a casual “hi.” (since I’ve been seeing her for over two years and I _like_ her)

      • Spudly said:

        I have some friends and some acquaintances that are therapists. They don’t always want to say what they do for a living in non-deep situations (parties, weddings funerals, places where some people know each other but lots don’t and won’t ever). They keep it mum because others seem to get .. weirded out by hearing they are talking to a therapist. So here’s my question. If I met my therapist out side of her office, (and this might really happen, I picked her for common values, etc); I would be happy to say she’s my doc. Without expecting further interaction at length (until we process back at the office and she gets paid for it!). Would she feel Ok with being exposed in her profession? Am I responsible for her feelings in that case? Probably not, but don’t worry. I will now ask her.

  9. ainomiaka said:

    It doesn’t sound like you have done anything worth worrying about. I do know some places that do low cost counseling have rules about getting new appointments if you no show on a scheduled one without calling, but it doesn’t sound like you did that. You haven’t burned any bridges.
    While I would think it would be appropriate for a counselor to say “In my medical opinion, I don’t think that goal is healthy for you” and refuse to participate if something like that came up, that is an exception rather than the rule. and should be explicitly mentioned. Otherwise, you are absolutely reasonable to expect the counselor to work with your goals. Actually, that may be the gist of my comment. You are being entirely reasonable here. You do not need to worry.

  10. Curious86 said:

    I am a counselor in a college counseling center. LW, you have nothing to feel bad about or apologize for! This kind of thing happens all the time, especially in this setting. We are very used to this kind of thing and no good or decent therapist would hold it against you. It is not your job to manage your counselor’s emotions or finances around this and, once again, a good therapist would not expect you to.
    Also, it is 100% OK to direct your own therapy as you see appropriate. Fit is VERY important when it comes to therapy, so perhaps your styles did not click, or perhaps she didn’t have the right read on the situation. You are always well within your rights to direct the conversation towards your goals and speak up if you feel your needs aren’t being met. Being corrected or redirected by my clients has led to some very productive work for me; I love it when clients feel they can do this. And if you do not click, it is 100% appropriate to ask to see someone else; there may be limitations on that (I know some places I worked would want you to go back to the original person at least once in most instances), but fit and style really go a long way in helping therapy be effective and you deserve good therapy!

    • Violet said:

      This!

  11. Kathleen said:

    Semi retired therapist here, LW this happens allllllll the time, and isn’t a big deal for her at all. I’m sure she wonders how you’re doing once in a while and would be happy to hear from you, but it’s not a big deal. And we are usually happy to refer you to other therapists. Client loads are usually quite full in any kind of academic setting also. And what Kady said, counseling is confidential, so she won’t acknowledge you in public unless you acknowledge her first. Good Luck!

  12. Violet said:

    Former therapist in a college counseling center here, adding to the choir. You don’t owe the therapist an apology and have nothing to feel bad about. (And you *totally* aren’t responsible for her income – as long as you kept and paid for your appointments, or cancelled with sufficient notice, you kept your contract.) Part of the deal is you often don’t get to find out what happens to people after you work with them, because it’s totally up to them what they want to communicate to whom. I would be glad to get an update in a situation like yours, but i wouldn’t expect it and i would totally not be or feel entitled to it.

    More generally, if you’re feeling kind of ‘meh’ about therapy/your therapist, they very well may not be the right fit for you, or, it could be that talking about and exploring what isn’t clicking could be very fruitful for you. A good therapist will be seeing how you relate with them as likely showing something about patterns of how you relate to others in your life, and should be providing a safe space to explore whatever you’re experiencing, including what you don’t like about what’s happening between you, that can be more fraught in the outside world. Getting to bring up something that isn’t working for you with someone whose only goal is to understand and support you in being free and empowered and totally yourself can be a transformative experience, and a good therapist should not be defensive or conflict avoidant. So maybe by exploring what happened, you could get to see something about why ghosting felt safer/easier, and is that an issue other places in your life…. (Or, it could be that you didn’t feel safe to get into deep stuff with the therapist, and not wanting to re-engage is the best choice. And if that resonates for you, it’s ok to validate that and drop the idea that you ‘should’ have done something different… it’s all your call, really.)

    I will say that one of the more powerful experiences i’ve had in therapy was with a therapist who was skilled and competent and caring, but really a poor personality fit for me, and i found it super hard to bring that up with her. I had decided to bail and look for someone else, and in our last session when i told her, she was just great about encouraging me to express how i felt, hearing it, and validating and supporting my preferences and choice to leave her. For someone whose family’s reaction to wanting to separate was intense, scary defensiveness and guilting, it was transformative to see how that was my family’s deal and not the way it had to be. Not that the world is full of people who love being challenged and left 😉 but, the difference between a child’s reflexive “omg mustn’t do that or the world will end badly” still being projected onto the rest of the world as an adult, and a more adult sense of the total normalcy of that happening between people sometimes and it being valid and ok, even if uncomfortable. It wasn’t the end of those challenges for me, but it opened a significant door.

    A therapist shouldn’t _need_ you, they are there to help you. Our parents weren’t supposed to need us, they were supposed to be there to meet our needs – but a lot of them did need us in some emotional way that wasn’t appropriate, and that’s often one root cause of the issues that we need therapy to help unwind us from, IMO. So when you find yourself feeling like you need to protect or take care of your therapist, either they are in some way actually needing that from you, which would be a competence/boundary fail and you should quit them asap; or, they are not needing that from you, but you are projecting that they are, which can be an awesomely healing thing to work on with a good therapist with good boundaries.

    Something about your letter, LW, reminded me of that experience and i wanted to share it and my related thoughts on therapy. Whatever you end up deciding to do and however it goes, i wish you self-validation and empowerment and one way or another, not settling for ‘meh’ therapy.

    • I was in gov. sponsored counselling, and one interesting thing happened. I had a few therapist over time. The first one was okay, but didn’t accept my asexuality. She got a new job, so I got a new therapist. She seemed like a good fit, then she went on mat. leave. Then I had a really great fit therapist, and made a lot of good progress. Then, because the 2nd therapist’s mat leave was ending, she got a new job. When I got the second therapist back? She was no longer a good fit. Though I didn’t change therapists, I probably should have. Especially since I was trying to actively work on my anxiety at that point.
      Point of this, is that someone can start being a good fit and then become less of a good fit. and to support Violet’s post.

      Also violet, can we make posters/memes/etc with your second last paragraph’s second sentence on it?

  13. Devichan said:

    I ghosted on my therapist for over a year. Resuming was as simple as calling the office and making an appointment. When I got there it was “Things got intense. Here is what’s changed, and here’s where I’m heading.”

    I have also, in the past with different therapists, ghosted because deep down, that therapy wasn’t working. That happens too, and it’s OK!

    Best to you!

  14. Elektra said:

    Re: LW’s comment that she thinks maybe she should go back to therapy, but not wanting to see her original therapist – LW, please don’t feel guilty about seeing someone new, or worse still not seek the help you need because you feel that you ‘should’ go back the original therapist because ‘she’s the expert’.

    I learned this the hard way… got referred to someone lovely, well respected and well intentioned, and just found we were at odds. She wanted to go deep into my childhood from our first appointment, I wasn’t ready for it and wanted to keep it present-focussed until we built trust. Eventually, I stopped going, under very similar circumstances to yours – she cancelled, I never rescheduled. And then I didn’t get the help I needed for years because I felt that I ‘should’ go back to her, because she was a good therapist and so obviously I was the problem and I should just suck it up and go back to her.

    I now think that, like exercise, the best kind of therapy for a person is the one they’re most likely to stick with. And usually that means therapy where you feel aligned to and comfortable with your therapist, that you trust and feel safe with them, and that you’re not going into appointments worried about the dynamic between you.

    So feel free to go out and find someone new that you click with. If you find you try multiple people and you can’t work with ANY of them, then maybe there’s something going on there you need to think about. But to me it honestly sounds like you might benefit from a new therapist, and that this is a natural opportunity to seek one out, since you haven’t been in therapy for a while.

    Best of luck to you in your journey.

    • That exact same thing happened to me: I got landed with a therapist who did nothing but try to dig into my childhood issues, when i was absolutely not ready and just wanted some practical help with coping strategies for anxiety and panic attacks. I needed something structured to help me challenge my thoughts when I started to anxiety-spiral. I did not want to analyse my relationship with my mother, which can trigger anxiety in itself if i think about it too much.

      What would have really helped was the CBT I received on a different occasion, when I was having serious issues with maintaining relationships and dealing with them ending. At that point, talking in depth about my upbringing and relationship with my parents might have helped me achieve the massive breakthrough I made all by myself about ten years later after a lot of unnecessary pain and emotional trauma, leading to a life-changing turnaround in my approach to ALL relationships. CBT…not so helpful there.

      Point is, the right therapist for you might not ALWAYS be so, and unless your former therapist was an amazing fit for you (which it sounds like she wasn’t quite) it’s probably not worth making any extra effort to go back to the same one again.

      If it feels rude or awkward (it isn’t!) remember that if she isn’t right for you then you won’t be doing her any favours by going back to her anyway! I can imagine being a counsellor is much more rewarding when your client responds really well, makes clear progress and you have an excellent rapport.

  15. msmess said:

    Lots of great advice here! Something I wanted to add because it sounds like you are running into this former counselor and feeling awkward about it:

    The therapist I saw when I lived in a small college town had a whole part of her intake that was about what we’d do if we saw each other in the community, since my being her client was technically privileged. Her policy was always that she’d follow the client’s lead. Smile + head nod, completely ignoring each other, a quick “hihowareya”–whatever the client was comfortable with. Since it sounds like your counselor is working in a smaller community, they might have the same philosophy.

    What I’m trying to say is–saying a friendly hello is probably okay, and pretending you don’t know them is also probably okay. This situation is all part of the job for your former counselor!

    I hope this helps you, and that you’re able to find a counselor you work better with, if that’s what you’re looking for. Best wishes!

  16. emmych said:

    Something that my own therapist taught me, ironically enough: you are allowed to hire and fire the people providing you expert services whenever the fuck you want. Don’t like your doctor? Pick another doctor. Don’t click with your therapist? Find another therapist. Your psychologist giving you treatment you don’t feel is effective? Find another psychologist (EASIER SAID THAN DONE especially in a small town, ahahaha, but you get the gist!).

    As the client it is 100% your right to just stop going to see your counselor and start seeing someone else. You do not owe her an e-mail explaining why, you do not have have this counselor or no counselor because you do not want to hurt her feelings. You do not have to tell her you are seeing a new counselor. You do not have to feel bad for not telling her, because a counselor, like a doctor or a psychologist or any other health provider, is not a partner: you cannot cheat on them. You are the boss and you get to decide who gives you the service that works for you.

    Also, like, if you go try a few new people out and they don’t work? You can always return to your previous counselor! Therapists are used to people stopping seeing them for a while and then coming back again later. I’ve had months long gaps with my own therapist before, too, and times where I saw her twice a month (as often as funds would allow). You set the pace for your own treatment.

    The rest of the advice in this thread and post are super sound, too! Good luck, LW!

  17. Turing Incomplete said:

    Can I ask you, once you realize that your therapist is a bad fit, how do you find a better one?

    I recently quit my 6th therapist in 3 years, after we both agreed that we weren’t making progress and she could not offer the kind of help I need. The problem, both in therapy and in life, is that I am too analytical to relate to people on a personal level. This makes it hard to form relationships and has left me desperately lonely.

    I sent my therapist a letter saying that I needed someone who could relate to a highly analytical person. I don’t really understand any sort of thinking other than critical thinking. The active listening thing drives me nuts, since there’s no information added. I specifically said that I wasn’t looking for sympathy but solutions. She assured me that she understood, but in session offered me only sympathy and no solutions. Not even a hypothesis.

    So I am again adrift. I can’t fix myself, and can’t find anyone who can help. She said she’d find someone to refer me to, but that was a month ago and nothing.

    I understand that therapy is not an engineering problem, but all I know how to relate to are engineering problems. I need a therapist who can bridge that gap. Do such people exist or am I beyond help?

    • LadyPisces said:

      Perhaps Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or Solution-Focused Therapy would be better fits for you. When you start therapy it’s okay to ask a therapist what their theoretical orientation is and to explain your previous experiences and what hasn’t worked for you. Good luck on finding help. It’s out there but not always easy to find immediately.

  18. Like the folks above, in my experience these things go in waves, and your therapist is not bothered by the ghosting.

    I’ve had three adult therapist relationships. The first one left the field and made three recommendations. I picked the second one based on the “guy you’ll like the best” recommendation from my first therapist. I saw him off an on for five or six years. I also ghosted him twice, disappearing for months on end until I was ready to go back. He was great for what I needed then; but, as I decided to close that relationship he made a comment that he’d been waiting for that for like six months. My third therapist and I were bad fits for each other. So, all kinds of things can happen.

  19. Kay said:

    I’m a psychologist and I 100% approve everything about the good Captain’s message.

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