Exploring Termination in Therapy
When I first meet a new client, I always ask that they complete the sentence: “I am glad I went to therapy because….” This question gives me a glimpse into their goals and how they will know when they are ready to end therapy. However, ending therapy can be an overwhelming concept.
It is wonderful when you’re able to find a good fit with a therapist — you’ve worked for a while on developing trust, you’ve shared intimate details and thoughts about your life, and you’ve committed to taking time every week to focus on you. So, understandably, you might be hesitant to let this go. Here are some pointers to help you reflect on the trajectory of your therapy and when it might be time to wrap things up:
Discuss how things are going
As a therapist, I think it’s always important to check in with clients to see how things are going. I like to hear from clients about what is going well and what they would like more or less of. It’s a chance to talk about whether we are addressing therapy goals, to add goals, or get back on track. It’s a chance to give feedback to each other to continue developing trust, openness, and comfort with being vulnerable. Most importantly, it’s practice for asking for your needs and discussing expectations of each other in a caring manner.
Endings can be good
I come from the viewpoint of “we want to get you to the point of ending therapy.” Ending therapy indicates progress. It can be hard to engage in the conversation, whether it comes from you or your therapist. Sometimes it can mimic feelings as if two people are breaking up. But, when termination is handled well, it is a great example that endings can be good. Unlike many things that come to an end, therapy ending can mean you’ve learned a lot of skills, you can implement these skills, and you’ve been maintaining them.
It’s a bittersweet opportunity
I usually use “bittersweet” as a way to describe ending therapy. It can be a mix of emotions. It can feel scary because you worry you’re losing a support and it can feel sad to say goodbye to an important relationship. However, there is also excitement to move forward on your own. When ending therapy, there is a sense of pride in what you’ve accomplished and what you want to continue accomplishing on your own. It is a great opportunity to prove to yourself that you’re doing the work to help yourself, and you may actually end up feeling like you’re gaining a support — yourself! Ending therapy can be a good self-esteem boost and a reminder that you own your progress.
So, ask yourself how therapy is going and ask your therapist to talk about it. It’s important to make sure your needs are being met and you’re developing skills that work for you. Talking about this can and should be a process. Termination is a phase of therapy, so take time exploring this with your therapist.