The Benefits Of Stepping Back: Understanding When To Take A Break From Therapy

Medically reviewed by Nikki Ciletti, M.Ed, LPC
Updated May 3, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Therapy can be a valuable part of people’s mental health journeys. It can offer a way to work through mental health conditions, learn new coping skills, and effectively communicate emotions. However, you might want to take a break from therapy, which is entirely valid.

The reason for taking a break from therapy, whether short-term or long-term, can vary among different people. No matter the case, if you decide to take a break from treatment, you can always return to it. Continue reading to learn more about why you might take a therapy break and the potential benefits of doing so.

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Identifying the right time to take a break from therapy

Mental health can be complex and nuanced; therapy can be vital in addressing and managing various conditions. However, therapy sessions can be emotionally taxing, and sometimes stepping back to apply the skills learned in therapy can be beneficial. Taking a break from treatment can be a personal choice, but there are different factors you may need to consider before making this decision.

When is it time to take a step back?

There are no specific guidelines for the proper length of time in therapy, as it may vary from person to person. One signal it might be time for a break is when treatment no longer feels necessary or progress has stalled. It may be helpful to communicate openly with your therapist about your thoughts and feelings about taking a break, and together, you can create a plan of action.

Taking a full pause or step back from therapy may also be appropriate when you reach a specific milestone. For example, you may have initially sought treatment to help manage anxiety or to work through a difficult life transition. Once you have successfully learned the coping skills, it could be time to take a break from therapy sessions. 

Remember that taking a break doesn't mean you've failed or won't need support in the future. It might simply be the time to move on to practicing what you've learned independently.

Benefits of taking a break from therapy

Taking a break from therapy can have several advantages. You may now have the space to explore the following benefits after treatment.

Self-reflection and personal growth

Taking a break from therapy can give you time to think about your progress and how much you've grown.

It may help you see what areas you still need to work on and what you've already accomplished. For example, you might realize you've become better at managing stress but must build stronger relationships.

Self-reliance and confidence

When you take breaks from therapy, you can practice handling challenging situations independently. Using the skills you learned in treatment may help you feel more confident. For example, you might find that you're better at calming yourself down during tasks that you found challenging before, like writing, preparing for an exam, or working on a stressful project.

New goals and progress

Taking a break may allow you to reevaluate your goals and see how much you've achieved, enabling you to set new therapy goals. For instance, you could set a new goal to improve your work-life balance or to develop better communication skills with your partner.

Real-life application of coping skills

A break from therapy can allow you to use the coping skills you've learned daily. It may help you see how well they work and if you need to change your approach. For instance, you may find that deep breathing exercises help you stay focused during a challenging project.

Assess the effectiveness of the therapy

Taking a step back from therapy may help you think about the strength of your relationship with your therapist and how well the therapy is working for you. It can help you decide if you should continue with your current therapist, try a different therapy, or look for other types of support. For example, you might realize that group therapy better fits your needs than individual therapy.

Explore alternative healing methods

During a break, you can try other ways to feel better, like practicing mindfulness, exercising, or joining a support group. Trying different methods can provide more ways to care for your mental health and could be an excellent supplement for your therapy. 

In the next section, we'll delve into strategies that can help to maintain mental health during a break from therapy and how you can effectively use this time for personal growth.

What happens after therapy?

Taking a break from therapy should not be an end to taking care of your mental health. Below are some options you may explore to make your break successful. 


Preparing for the last session before the break

Discuss your decision to take a break with your therapist and collaborate to prepare for it. Processing your feelings about the break can be beneficial, as it can be common to experience feelings of loss when pausing therapy.

Exploring other resources for mental health support

During the break, it can be essential to maintain a sound support system. It may include friends, family members, or support groups that can help you focus on your mental health. You may also explore other resources, such as books, podcasts, or online courses, that can help support your therapeutic goals.

Staying connected with the therapist during the break

While having a break from therapy can be perfectly fine, staying in touch with your therapist may be instrumental. With their permission, you can reach out for occasional check-ins, preparing yourself for a smoother transition when you resume your sessions.

As you navigate the break from therapy, you can implement the tools learned from your sessions to maintain your mental health and support your continued progress.

Returning to therapy after a break

Returning to therapy after a break can be a positive step in maintaining mental health and consistency in self-improvement. You may want to consider several factors when resuming treatment, though, including those below.

Evaluating the need for additional sessions

Before resuming therapy, consider evaluating whether you need more sessions. After a break, it's not uncommon to experience a relapse into old patterns or feelings, which may warrant additional guidance from a therapist. For example, you may have taken a break from therapy after learning to manage social anxiety. You might be confident and comfortable in social interactions but later encounter a significant life change, like moving to a new city or starting a new job. These unique circumstances could trigger social anxiety to resurface, as you might face unfamiliar situations and the stress of building new relationships. 

Returning to therapy could help refresh the coping strategies you learned before. You can consider how well you’ve maintained progress and whether you’re handling new life events or challenges that could benefit from therapy.

Re-establishing the therapeutic relationship

You can communicate your intentions and goals with your therapist when returning to therapy. This conversation will help both parties understand why you're returning and what areas need attention. Talk to your therapist about any challenges you may have encountered during the break and any changes in your life that may affect the therapy sessions.

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Online therapy

If you feel uncomfortable returning to traditional face-to-face therapy, you may want to consider online treatment. Virtual therapy often offers more flexibility in scheduling and can be a more comfortable option for those who prefer remote sessions. It may also be more cost-effective, benefiting people who took a break from therapy because of financial constraints.

According to recent research, online therapy can be as effective as traditional therapy in addressing and managing the symptoms of many mental health conditions, including anxiety and depression. That means you can get care through the web that isn’t less valuable than what you might receive in person, making it easier to customize your treatment to fit your needs.


Taking a break from therapy is not uncommon, and there can be various reasons behind such a decision. Whether due to financial constraints, scheduling difficulties, or personal growth. It may be a good idea to pause therapy and put your skills into practice.

During a break from therapy, you may benefit from building a support system, including friends, family, or other resources like support groups. These connections can help with the continuation of emotional and mental well-being. Your therapist can advise you on when and how you should take a break and how to return to therapy after a break.

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