When Changing Therapists Is the Best Move You Didn’t Want to Make
There are a variety of reasons why people want to stay with their ongoing therapist, even if they are no longer getting the same level of benefits and results they once did: comfort, accessibility, fear of the unknown, or feeling that they might hurt the provider’s feelings. Other times we might not want to change our provider but need to, like when the provider is moving or retiring, no longer in your insurance network, or you as the client are moving.
Believe it or not, there are a lot of benefits to changing your provider, especially after you’ve already been doing quality work with your ongoing therapist. The growth and perspective that can be achieved with a new provider can be phenomenal. Oftentimes, you can reach a new level of wellbeing using new skills, tools and having access to new modalities.
Reasons Why You Might WANT or NEED to Change Providers:
You or your therapist are moving to a different area- These days, most therapists are offering online sessions but even still, therapists are only licensed to practice in the states where they are licensed so if you move out of state you may need to find a new therapist. Also, if either of you move too far away for in-person work and the therapy you need requires you to be seen in person, you and your therapist should work together to find another therapist to transfer you to.
Your therapist is no longer in network with your insurance- Ok, real deal here…insurance companies take advantage of therapists whose whole career is built around helping others and sometimes they have to leave insurance panels for their own sanity! If your provider is leaving your insurance panel, they will likely offer you a discounted option to continue working with them and if they don’t they are ethically obligated to refer you to other providers.
You’ve reached a natural end with your work with your therapist- Believe it or not, sometimes people reach of their work with one provider because that provider’s skill set or therapeutic approach is no longer what you need. For instance, when you have frequent sinus issues, your primary care physician will assist you to a point and then they may refer you to an allergist or an ENT. Similarly, in therapy, if you are coming to the end of your work with a good clinician, they will bring this up to you discuss your next set of needs and goals and refer you to other providers who can take you to the next level.
No longer a good fit- While all of the above reasons may ultimately mean that your provider is no longer a good therapeutic or logistical fit for you, you may encounter other issues that indicate that you would benefit from changing providers. This could include something like the presentation of a new symptom or issue that requires specialized support such as a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder or confirmation of an ADHD diagnosis, or even a new marriage. When the focus of your work changes significantly, your current therapist may not always be the best option to support you with your new needs.
Why People Avoid Changing Therapists:
They do not want to start over- This is the biggest concern therapists here from their clients and the reality is that almost no one likes the feeling of starting from the beginning. What is different when starting with a new therapist though is that you have the benefit of having already grown since starting therapy so the version of you who initially started therapy is no more and the current version of you has a lot to gain from the retelling of your story. That being said, when you are working with a therapist in the context of a group practice, the transfer to a new therapist generally doesn’t have to feel like starting from scratch because those therapists can communicate about you and your work in therapy in the transfer process.
It can be hard to find a new therapist- This is a tough one. Despite many platforms, insurance lists, and recommendations, the finding, contacting, vetting, consulting and scheduling with a new therapist can be difficult when trying to manage your own schedule, phone tag and determining if the new therapist is a good fit for you over a 5 minute phone call. Additionally, these days we hear lots of complaints about therapists not returning calls or emails which we imagine may be due to being so overwhelmed with holding together the entire country’s mental health these days.
People are afraid of judgment or the unknowns with a new therapist- Isn’t this the case with meeting almost anyone new? Going out on the limb is important but remember that therapists are uniquely trained to leave their judgment at the door and support you in the way that YOU need.
Unexpected Benefits of Changing to a New Therapist:
A different perspective- This one is HUGE folks! A change in perspective is why we talk to multiple people about making so many of the major decisions in our life and different perspectives in therapeutic settings is helpful for similar reasons. As a side note, this is also why your therapist might encourage you at some point to attend group therapy where you have access to multiple perspectives in a therapeutic setting at the same time. This is what really helps people to take their growth to a whole new level and what has some phenomenal therapists proactively consider referring their clients to new clinicians when the therapeutic work seems to have become stagnant and a round of applause to those highly thoughtful clinicians who take that step.
New skills and tools- With a new perspective comes a greater likelihood of your new therapist having a different approach to or even a different set of skills and tools to teach you that your old therapist did not know. This can unlock doors and open new insights while adding to the great tools you’ve already gained.
Different therapeutic approaches such as EFT or EMDR etc.- Not every therapist has sought additional trainings in the same areas after graduate school. Some focus on diagnostic areas, some on treatment methods, some obtain additional certificates and some dive into specialized research. Changing therapists may mean that you now have access to a completely new way of moving through your work than you did before based on the resources your new therapist has developed during their career.
Change can be uncomfortable but growing involves discomfort; it’s called “growing pains” for a reason, and if you’re too comfortable you may not be doing the work that would give you the best growth opportunity. What’s a series of sessions that don’t challenge you or ask you to reflect, review or sit with discomfort to get through it?
Once upon a time, your current therapist was new to you, and when the time comes, you can find another who will be able to join you in building upon the work and foundation you achieved with your former clinician. A solid foundation will support the new levels you’re ready to reach with a new provider.