Navigating the decision to end therapy: A guide to closure
It may be that you feel that you have achieved all that you need with your therapist or that you are no longer the right fit. Nonetheless, deciding to stop seeing your therapist can be a difficult position to take.
In a way, the therapy space may have allowed you to experience a caring, nurturing, and supportive relationship unlike any other (it is one-sided and for you). Despite this, stopping therapy can feel like a complex subject to broach with your therapist: maybe you are worried that you are making the wrong decision and that you will not cope without therapy. Perhaps you feel that you have processed all you could with them but you are not sure your therapist feels that way, or maybe, you worry that your therapist will feel let down or even rejected, or perhaps even that they may struggle financially without your regular sessions. Or maybe your therapist is not the right fit!
Deciding to stop seeing your therapist is a significant step in your mental health journey. Ending therapy requires careful consideration and open communication, whether you’ve achieved your therapeutic goals, encountered a shift in your life circumstances, or feel ready to navigate the world without regular sessions.
Here’s a guide to help you navigate the decision and the subsequent steps in concluding your therapeutic relationship.
Reflect on your progress
Before deciding to end therapy, take some time to reflect on your progress. Consider your goals when you began therapy and assess whether you have achieved them or made significant strides. Reflecting on the positive changes in your life can help reinforce your decision to transition away from therapy.
Communicate your intentions
Once you have decided to stop therapy, it is crucial to communicate your intentions with your therapist. A critical therapy process is being willing to be in the sessions, and open and honest communication is the foundation of a healthy therapeutic relationship.
Schedule a session to discuss your decision, and use this opportunity to express your gratitude for the support you have received. Your therapist will likely engage in an open conversation about your thoughts about stopping. No matter the conversation, at the end of the day, it is your choice and your right to end therapy when you wish to!
However, it is essential to say that ending therapy sessions is a collaborative process in which your therapist may give their clinical opinion on the process in which to end. However, you still have control (this can be done in one, two, four, or 10 sessions!).
Explore unfinished business
During the conversation with your therapist, explore any unfinished business or lingering concerns you might have. This is a chance to address unresolved issues, clarify misunderstandings, or seek closure on specific topics. A transparent discussion ensures that you leave therapy with a sense of completeness.
Collaborate on a transition plan
Work with your therapist to develop a transition plan. This might involve tapering down the frequency of sessions or setting a specific end date for your therapeutic relationship. A well-thought-out plan ensures a smooth and gradual transition, providing you and your therapist closure.
Consider a gradual approach
If you are still deciding whether to end therapy abruptly, consider a gradual approach. Instead of terminating sessions altogether, you could schedule sessions less frequently. This approach allows you to connect with your therapist while gaining more independence.
Address emotional responses
Ending therapy can evoke various emotions, ranging from relief to anxiety to a sense of loss or abandonment. It is essential to address these emotions openly with your therapist. Discuss any concerns or fears you may have about ending therapy and explore coping strategies that can help you navigate this transition.
Reflect on the journey
Take time to reflect on your therapeutic journey and the growth you have experienced. Acknowledge the challenges you have overcome, the insights you have gained, and the skills you have developed. This reflection can contribute to closure and empowerment as you move forward.
Develop post-therapy support
Consider developing a plan for post-therapy support. This could involve identifying friends, family, or support groups that can offer continued assistance. Having a network in place can be valuable as you transition from the structured support of therapy to more independent self-care.
For some people, it has helped them plan an activity or hobby during their therapy. Attending therapy on a regular time and day may mean you could feel and experience that gap once it is done. Having an activity planned can help to plug that gap for some time.
Celebrate the achievements and milestones you have reached during your therapeutic journey. Recognising your progress reinforces therapy’s positive impact on your life and sets a constructive tone for the future. Consider expressing gratitude to your therapist for their role in your growth.
Stay open to future sessions
Even if you are ending therapy, it is essential to stay open to the possibility of returning if needed. Life is dynamic, and circumstances may change. Knowing that treatment remains an option can provide reassurance and reduce the pressure of concluding your therapeutic relationship.
All in all, deciding to stop seeing your therapist is a personal and reflective process. By communicating openly, addressing emotions, and collaboratively developing a transition plan, you can conclude your therapeutic journey with closure and empowerment. Remember that the skills and insights gained in therapy are valuable tools that can continue to support you as you navigate the complexities of life beyond the therapeutic setting.
As a psychologist, my one priority is ensuring that my clients find their sessions helpful and useful. Open, non-judgemental, and compassionate conversations are central to my sessions. It is imperative for me to keep my sessions person-centred and will always keenly listen to what my clients want and need, whether it is feeling that the therapy sessions are not quite what they were looking for and try to tailor them appropriately.