When to terminate counselling?

“When is enough, enough”? There are many reasons someone begins the journey of therapy and counselling. You may or may not have a clear idea of what is/isn’t working? You want some things to be different but not sure how to change them? Maybe you are wanting clarity or validation on thoughts and feelings you are experiencing? Perhaps you “just don’t feel it” anymore and don’t know why. These are all quite normal and perhaps easy to relate to. Sometimes, the difficult question to answer after engaging in therapy is… knowing when to end.

The issue of termination in counselling and therapy is a ongoing conversation/discussion amongst those of us who make our livelihood from this profession. For clients, there are a number of things to consider that may help you in making your decision. First, we need to understand that the journey of therapy often comes with highs, lows and hopefully enlightening moments. This journey can be quite emotional and moving. Becoming transparent, open and vulnerable is never easy and having an individual who will listen without judgment, provide ongoing support and encouragement and one who will challenge us to grow can be very meaningful in our life. Clients can develop feelings for their therapist that resemble that of a close friendship. Your therapist has been trained to understand this and as a result has likely created boundaries and clarity to help recognize and deal with any possible transference.

Transference occurs when a person takes the perceptions and expectations of one person and projects these onto another person. They then interact with the other person as if the other person is that transferred pattern. Changing Minds.org

It is important to understand that both beginnings and endings have many similarities. The uncertainty of trying something new, the fear of the unknown, the uneasiness created by new revelations and and how they may have influenced my life are all very real indeed. Endings too can induce fear of going it alone, the of loss of support, and the anxiety of “now what?”

When considering terminating therapy, some questions to ask yourself (and your counsellor) include: Has the goal(s) set out at the start of therapy been achieved? Has significant progress been made that it seems like a good time to take a break, maybe to return at a later time? Has my life changed and I have new priorities? Maybe you just can’t think of anything more to talk about and begin to question why you keep coming. The “work” of therapy can also create stress on the therapeutic relationship. Sometimes it is a good idea to take a break or change therapists if the connection is no longer there. Whatever the reason(s) it is important that you and your therapist visit and revisit this topic.

According to clinical psychologist John Duffy, PhD., “provided you feel safe and comfortable with your therapist , be direct and honest with your thoughts and feedback”.
“A good therapist will be open to feedback and will use it to continually improve,” added Christina G. Hibbert, Psy.D, a clinical psychologist.

I leave you with this quote I find both enlightening and empowering:

If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.
Orson Welles