By David Joel Miller.
When is it time to end therapy?
How do you know when it is time to end therapy? Some people go for a few sessions and then they are done, while others, well they keep going for years. How would you know it is time to end the therapy sessions? And what should you be doing after the time with your counselor ends?
This parting of the ways can be hard for both of you. Therapists study in school a process called “termination.” We know that ending a relationship, especially one as emotionally close as counseling, can be difficult. Sometimes this ending the counseling relationship needs to happen over several sessions. This is especially true if you have trust or abandonment issues.
Sometimes we counselors hate to see a client stop coming, not just for the money but because the counselor will miss them.
Of course, there are times you need to keep going to therapy even when you don’t feel like it. Working on issues can be painful at times and perseverance pays off. But other times it is best to end or take a break from therapy.
If you have been questioning whether you still need to go see the counselor every week please talk this over with them. They may have suggestions about other things you need to work on and you can make a decision about those things. Remember the final decision is yours. Here are some times you may need to stop going to therapy.
You have accomplished the counseling goals you set.
The thing that pushes many people into therapy is a crisis or acute problem in your life. You go, you work on your issue and then things start getting better. If you find yourself looking for things to talk about rather than having pressing needs to talk then you may be ready to end therapy.
Think carefully about the thing that brought you to the therapist’s office in the first place. Was this an unexpected problem, a job loss or death in the family? Or was this breakup or job loss a recurring pattern in your life that needs complete examination if you are to rid your life of this recurring issue.
Do you think of the counselor as a friend instead of a professional helper?
If you find you are going because your therapist is your friend then you may be ready to end this relationship. A counselor’s job is to help you develop the skills you need to move on in life. You should be working on making other friends and developing a support a system.
No one person in your life can be your one and only support system. If you are dependent on your counselor because you have no friends outside that relationship you need to be working on how to create that support system. The counselor can support you in the process of creating other supports but they should avoid creating a situation where you become dependent on them.
If you start worrying about your therapist’s feelings and how they will take your desire to end treatment, then you have shifted from being the client to trying to caretake the counselor’s feelings. You probably are done, at least for now.
You find it hard to give up other activities to go to therapy.
If you find that you are passing up on other activates you would like to participate in to go see the counselor this suggests you are getting ready to end the sessions. The goals of therapy, depending on the identified problem, should be for you to reach the point you can function at work, with family and friends and that there are things you enjoy doing.
If this problem is no longer interfering with those social and job-related activities and you are not feeling distressed over your problems then you are getting ready to transition to living life without that weekly therapy visit.
What was the problem? IT’s time to end therapy if you can’t remember why you are going.
If you talked all up and down and around and now find that you can’t identify a problem that needs work you are ready to end treatment. If you have moved from getting treatment for a problem to just wanting advice and ideas on how to be happier or more productive you have transitioned from doing therapy to something more like life coaching. Licensed Therapists and Counselors can do life coaching. If you have any mental or emotional issues I recommend you get your coaching from someone trained in mental health. Remember though that life coaching is a different skill from therapy and probably is not covered by your insurance.
You are not making any progress on your issues.
At times there are periods where work is going on and you do not yet see the results. Do not give up before the miracles happen. But if you feel you have moved as far as you can with this provider or this therapeutic approach. Talk this over with your counselor and see what insight they can offer. Sometimes you need a break from therapy and at other times you may need to work with a new person who can offer you a new perspective.
There are other reasons that you may want or need to end counseling, but those are some of the bigger ones. Have you found it hard to end therapy? Have you stopped going and how did that work out for you?
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books