Thinking About Canceling Therapy? Tell Me About It

Person in business attire with hair tied back into ponytail holds phone and looks thoughtfully out windowYour next therapy appointment is approaching, and you’re wondering what you might talk about. Nothing “exciting” has happened recently. You’re not upset about anything in particular. There’s been no drama. You’re actually feeling pretty good.

You think to yourself, “There’s no point in going. I might as well cancel.”

Here are some reasons you shouldn’t.

Therapy isn’t helpful only in times of crises. It can serve the purpose of ensuring the maintenance of healthy coping strategies. It can be a place to investigate alternative ways of looking at situations that have the potential to be “bigger” so they don’t end up being seen as flash points, but rather as manageable moments to employ useful skills and tools. In addition, themes and patterns that emerge over time might be more easily acknowledged in a session not devoted to crises.

People I work with often mention they thought on the drive over they had nothing to talk about but were amazed to discover there was quite a bit to explore. Once more immediate challenges are dealt with, there are opportunities to dig beneath the surface and work on the core issues that underlie everyday struggles.

Sometimes, hesitating before a session signals you might be close to working on something of great importance. That hesitation might represent fear or apprehension. It’s helpful to share with your therapist that you considered canceling, as well as the feelings that came up for you.

Therapy is work; it’s not supposed to be easy. It requires being open to different perspectives, trying new things, making changes, being honest with yourself and with others, and doing things that are difficult or challenging.

You might not be aware of things your therapist is seeking to explore with you. A seemingly simple question might serve to elicit a lot of material—important content you hadn’t even realized was there.

If you believe your work in therapy is done and you’re thinking you’ll call in the future if things aren’t going well, communicate this intention in person. When contemplating terminating therapy, it’s important to discuss it in session with your counselor so it is carried out therapeutically. It is a wonderful chance to concretely take stock of the progress you’ve made and the strategies you will take with you. It’s imperative you review the supports you have set up as well as the plan you will be putting in place for how to handle stressors or triggers that may challenge you going forward. Allow for that closure. Otherwise, you may leave without full awareness of what you’ve accomplished and without being completely cognizant of the tools you have at your disposal, should you need them. It’s also the perfect opportunity to demonstrate communicating effectively something that might be difficult to express.

As a therapist, I am grateful when a person I work with feels comfortable enough to bring their uncertainty to me. It demonstrates the person is feeling strong enough to do so and is not avoiding the expression of their thoughts, often indicative of progress.

Saying goodbye is not always easy, but it is often best said in person, with the parameters for reengagement clearly mapped out. It’s possible your therapist will respectfully disagree with your assessment and encourage you to continue in therapy. It is important to hear that and consider that feedback in your decision-making process.

Wanting to cancel may be as much a part of the therapeutic process as attending your sessions regularly. It may signal it is time to review your original counseling goals to see whether they’ve been met, or whether in fact you and your therapist have gone in a different direction. Acknowledging your ambivalence can give you and your therapist an opening to get back on track with regard to the counseling goals, or the chance to create new objectives.

As a therapist, I am grateful when a person I work with feels comfortable enough to bring their uncertainty to me. It demonstrates the person is feeling strong enough to do so and is not avoiding the expression of their thoughts, often indicative of progress.

Showing up and then articulating your inclination to cancel can serve to strengthen the therapeutic alliance and deepen the work you do in counseling. It demonstrates you are acknowledging your thoughts and feelings rather than taming them into submission or sweeping them under the rug, and that you are willing to communicate directly rather than avoiding or ignoring.

If you’re thinking of canceling, show up instead, talk about it, and with your therapist, collaboratively navigate how best to handle those moments going forward.

© Copyright 2017 All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Laurie Leinwand, MA, LPC, Topic Expert

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Carrie

    March 6th, 2017 at 11:16 AM

    I don’t ever want to have to cancel- this is the best time that I get to spend with someone each month! I am always looking forward to the next session, wish that I could afford to actually go more often.

  • garrett

    March 7th, 2017 at 10:44 AM

    I guess that it would first be important to try to recognize why it is that you are cancelling the appointment. Is it because you don’t like the therapist that you are working with? Or you feel uncomfortable talking about things going on in life right now? Or do you genuinely feel like things are okay and you don’t need it right now? I think that once you can come to some sort of resolution about why you want to cancel then you will have a better idea if this is because things are really fine and you don’t need it or you are not going for all the wrong reasons.

  • Mildred

    March 11th, 2017 at 7:00 AM

    From a professional standpoint I would at least encourage you, if you are cancelling, to at least give a 24 hour notice. These are people who do get paid for services rendered so if you no show, then there goes their day.

  • Linda

    March 31st, 2017 at 8:24 AM

    As a result of a work injury I undertook “therapy” through the insurance recommended treatment provider for PTSD phobia specific issue. Therapy was discontinued due to “political” issues at critical time during cognition restructuring. I believe the psychologists commitment to the insurance corporations agenda and his doctorate research (fiscally associated).
    I feel like I am a victim of a hate crime.
    I am struggling with the ability to trust other treatment providers.

  • Mike

    October 16th, 2020 at 10:33 AM

    Among other things, I have a lot of anxiety around just talking. I hate it. Trapped in my head more or less. Have and grew up with speech impairment. Been in therapy for months. The anxiety is ever present and ramps up before therapy. I don’t know why. I don’t want to quit but take every opportunity todo so. I just quit for my 3rd time and already feel like it is a mistake. I like my therapist, I just hate talking. Kind of want to schedule again but they have to hate me after canceling completely on her 3x.

  • Julie H

    October 14th, 2021 at 11:47 PM

    I’ve never NOT wanted to cancel. Every time I show up it means I moved mountains to overcome the strong urge to back out. I experience a ton of anxiety before therapy, and afterwards I just keep playing back what I wish I had said differently or explained better or preparing what to say next time. I know there are people who look forward to therapy, but it’s just so hard for me to imagine feeling that way.

  • allie

    May 26th, 2022 at 11:59 AM

    i feel the exact same way, down to every single word lol. i’ve been going for a year or so and i feel like i’ve made no process. therapy sometimes even makes me feel worst. it’s good to know i’m not the only who feels this way.

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