Endings in therapy

Today I had a final session with a client and although not the first ending I have experienced, it was a different ending. Different because the client notified me that the session today would be the last session - it was paid for and the session was a really pleasant experience.


I was saddened to hear the client wanted to end - it is the end of the client/therapist relationship, after all. A small bereavement perhaps, but an ending nonetheless.

I was anxious - another gap in the work schedule and thoughts that perhaps I have not been good enough as a counsellor. Low self-esteem here - yes, even counsellors can feel low self-esteem. All of these feelings were there when the client notified a few days in advance of today's session.

But how relevant are these feelings?

Clients may end their time in therapy for a variety of reasons and in a variety of ways. For instance, they may just disappear into the ether, say that they're not getting anything from the counselling (difficult for a counsellor to process) or may even be angry - why are you not fixing me? They may decide to finish when they reach the end of a number of limited sessions. Sometimes therapeutic change has occurred, and sometimes not. 

They may have fled into health or illness e.g. I am better now or I am in too dark of a place to carry on, both of which I view differently, being a counsellor.

This is the reality of life as a counsellor as I experience it.

With today’s client, it was different, though - I daresay even pleasant. Today offered the chance to ask the client what they felt they had achieved with counselling. I also let the client know that they were welcome to return, should they want to.

The client spoke of how they felt better able to face the recurrent issues that caused them to seek counselling in the first place. They spoke of being able to view their moods and feelings in a different way. How they were able to accept the feelings and that they had a choice to deal with them via different coping strategies or just sit with the feelings. Neither of which is something they had been able to do previously.

The client spoke of a desire to seek therapy at a later time but, for now, it felt as if they had achieved enough. Although I had not been present to witness the therapeutic change with this client, it was plain that they had had a psychic shift.

As a counsellor, I have often considered what would be the best ending with a client. In my literature, I speak of being redundant. By this, I mean that the client is able to feel that they can carry on alone as a result of having done the work.

For me, that is about as good as it can get - the best possible outcome for the client. I will miss them as a person and also as a fee-paying client but, with this client, the work has been done. The work has been done by the client, I have merely provided a place where they feel able to do the work. A place where perhaps they can, should they want to, pause and look at what is going on for them.

By being alongside them, I am able to provide support and encouragement. Never to lead and always willing to learn. As Irvine Yalom says, “We learn from every client.”

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Chelmsford CM1
Written by Steve Fayers, Counsellor / Therapist | Certified Trauma Therapist
Chelmsford CM1

I am a person, a counsellor, a parent, a flawed human being who has struggled with life. Struggled with addiction.
I would rather struggle than give in and accept a life that does not meet my needs and wants.
I am trying to be the best person I can be.
"I will not go quietly into that goodnight " (paraphrased Dylan Thomas)

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