When it comes to ending treatment there is a lot to think about. Whether you were aware of it or not, you were in a relationship. Not just any kind of relationship; a sanctimonious, therapeutic one. One that ought to be ended with care, kindness and a lot of reflection. Here are some questions to ask yourself before ending it and a guide on how to actually end it. However, there are some instances where it’s more than appropriate it to end it as soon as you feel ready, including transgressions and boundary violations.
This is the obvious question, but few of us really dig into it. We need to explore what’s causing us to want to end therapy. Rarely is it ever as simple as: I’ve met all my goals. Often, people want to end when they’re feeling better and no longer in crisis. That means it’s effective and then the real work can begin. So really knowing “the why” and discussing it is important.
Am I avoiding something?
Once you’ve dug into the why, maybe you’ve uncovered something. Perhaps you’re angry with your therapist for saying something that didn’t sit well with you. Maybe you’ve developed a deeper curiosity about your therapist than what feels tolerable. It could be that it’s not living up to your expectations.
Whatever it may be is relevant to bring up and share with your therapist. We know how to handle these curve balls and move through things together. You’ll probably feel a lot better, too. Getting it off your chest can deepen the work and the therapeutic relationship. It’s also an opportunity to practice sharing something vulnerable.
Am I making the most of it?
Therapy is about showing up and sitting with the work. Are you taking the work home with you? Are you letting it marinate? Are you thinking about what to bring to the next session? If you’re just showing up, talking about what happened in the last week and then leaving, you’re not really getting what you could out of it. It’s not just the in session work that matters, it’s the combination of the before, during and after that ultimately yields the best results.
Am I really finished?
I know not everyone has the time, money and privilege of doing ongoing treatment, but like I mentioned above, therapy gets good when we can move beyond the week-to-week chaos and sink into what’s underneath it all. Therapy is like peeling layers of an onion, there is always another layer to shed and understand. I understand and respect that we all have different comfort levels with how far we want to dig. Sometimes we can only handle so much, and maybe later you’ll return to the work.
How to end it
You may have already picked up on this, but the way to end it is to end it together. Work through these thought points with your therapist and outside of therapy as well. This way if it truly feels like the right time, and your therapist agrees, the two of you can discuss how to end it together. Termination is a way to experience a positive ending to a meaningful relationship, which can be a rare thing.
Try not to send a text, email or leave a voicemail canceling future appointments. It doesn’t matter if you add kind and thoughtful statements in the message. Therapists have feelings too, and we invest a lot of ourselves into each client relationship. Ending it together keeps the work properly held and ensures that it lasts. An abrupt ending can undo a lot of the work, and nobody wants that to happen.
If you can, bring it up early on in a session so you have ample time to discuss it, or put it on deck for the next session giving both of you time to think about it.