Ending Therapy: How Do You Know When the Work Is Finished?
How do you know when to end therapy? Is it after a certain number of sessions? After a few months or years? Or is it just when you no longer feel like you need it?
At times, the therapeutic relationship can feel complicated. The work can feel so vulnerable and intimate. And yet, it’s a professional relationship- you enter it intending to leave. You start the process, knowing that it eventually ends.
But ending therapy isn’t always straightforward. How do you know when it’s time to consider cutting back or stopping your sessions? What milestones should you consider? Let’s get into what you need to know.
What Is Termination?
Termination refers to the process associated with ending therapy. Therapy does not go on forever without a plan. Many therapists consider termination as more of an active collaboration, rather than as a single decision. Successful termination offers a profound opportunity for closure, growth, and reflection.
When you choose a therapist, you choose to share a part of yourself with someone else. You decide to prioritize your needs and focus on growth.
In some ways, termination begins at the very beginning of therapy. That’s because you and your therapist will establish your treatment goals and discuss the nature of your work together.
In other words, you should know what you’re trying to achieve. As you move towards completing those goals, the subject of termination may emerge more frequently.
What Are the Signs That You’re Ready for Ending Therapy?
Every therapist is different, and every client’s progress looks different as a result. It’s unhelpful to assume that everyone reaches the same goalposts associated with termination.
With that in mind, here are some common signs that you may be ready:
- You are regularly using the tools and coping strategies you learned in sessions.
- You don’t feel like you have much to talk about anymore.
- You have better insight into your patterns.
- You have built up a strong support system, and feel comfortable sharing your emotions with other people.
If you’re having thoughts about ending therapy, it’s a good idea to discuss them with your therapist. They may also bring up the concept of termination first. If this happens, it isn’t because they want to get rid of you! It’s because they recognize your progress and want to prepare you for your next steps!
Other Factors That Can Result In Ending Therapy
Sometimes, you need to end treatment due to unforeseen circumstances like:
- Financial constraints
- Scheduling concerns
- Geographical relocations
- Clashing interests with your therapist
- Needing a higher level or more specialized kind of care
If any of these factors apply to you, you can also talk about that in session. Many therapists are flexible and can accommodate different needs.
Remember that they want to help you succeed. If they can’t continue working with you, they will collaborate to determine the best strategies for moving forward in your care.
What If New Issues Emerge?
Let’s say you enter therapy because you’re struggling with grief after a loved one died. But throughout your therapeutic work, you start exploring the childhood trauma that you never spoke about before. You start realizing you aren’t as happy in your marriage as you would like to be.
Even if you start coping better with the grief, does that mean you’re now ready to end therapy?
Not necessarily! It’s important to know that therapy goals can be fluid. As new material arises, your therapist will work with you to discuss how to integrate it into your treatment. You are human, and some issues can be layered, complex, and covert.
Subsequently, therapists maintain an open-door policy for past clients. That means that you can return to treatment if you need support or something new happens. Once a therapist is your therapist, they will always consider you a client.
What If You’re Scared of Ending Therapy?
This is a common fear, although some clients may feel ashamed or embarrassed over it. It’s normal to feel attached to your therapist, and it can feel frightening to imagine what your life might look like without them. After all, they have hopefully been an unconditional source of empathy and compassion for you.
In thinking about termination, you may worry about relapsing into old behaviors. Or, you might feel concerned that nobody else can support you in the same ways.
Try to talk about these thoughts and feelings with your therapist. Termination can be a slow and gradual process- many clients transition into having fewer sessions over time, rather than stopping abruptly.
Ending therapy can feel scary, but it’s a natural part of the relationship. Moreover, finishing means that you have grown and made headway towards living a happier and healthier life.
At Willow Counseling, we are here to support you on your journey towards self-exploration. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.
Willow Counseling, LLC – Nashville, TN
Willow Counseling, PLLC exists to provide quality trauma-informed mental health counseling to the Nashville community, recognizing the interconnectedness of our emotional, spiritual and physical selves. We work together to alleviate symptoms, learn better coping skills, relieve burdens, remove the pain of trauma, and so much more. However, our greatest desire is for you to know what it means to feel purpose and joy again and to recognize the strength and worth you have to offer the world.