Thinking of ending your therapy?
The therapeutic journey is all about getting to a place where therapy is not needed anymore. The ending can be equally as important as the beginning or middle, and sometimes even more so. The endings we have had throughout our lives can be linked to what has brought us to therapy in the first place (often ‘bad’) and therapy can be a rare opportunity to experience a ‘good’ ending.
For some of us, the therapeutic end may be where the actual work lies and your therapist should ensure that your experiences of grief, change and loss are carefully considered when looking at ending your therapy together. It is tempting to avoid endings as we believe from past experiences that they are going to be painful but if you can challenge that part of you that may want to run away, a lot of growth can come from it.
Preparing for an ending
Some questions that might be useful to consider include:
- How will I know when I am ready to end? You may feel that you have achieved what you wanted to out of therapy. If you have had time limited therapy, the decision may be out of your control and is worth considering the impact this may have too. It is important to talk about this with your therapist so that the ending does not feel sudden. If you feel you need more therapy, you may be referred elsewhere. Sometimes you may not know the answer, so your therapist may suggest reviewing the work to see where you are at.
- What have I gained from therapy? This is a useful way of bringing together any skills or tools that you may have learnt during your time in therapy. The final few sessions before an ending usually focus on what changes the client has made during their therapeutic journey and how they can apply what they have learnt to future challenges. Reflecting on what has and hasn’t been useful is also another thing to consider.
- What does a good ending look like? Rarely do we know what a good ending looks like, so it helps to look back at significant endings that you have experienced throughout your life - events such as bereavements, leaving school, ending jobs (whatever the circumstances may be e.g. promotion, redundancy, relocating) moving to a new house, ending relationships etc. Consider if these have been ‘good’ or ‘bad’ endings, and what made them so. Common answers include ‘it was out of my control’, or ‘I didn’t see it coming’ for bad endings. Bearing this in mind, it is then easier to think about what a good ending may look like, which leads me to…
- How can I ensure I have a good ending? Once a client has explored what a bad ending feels like, it makes it easier to think about what a good ending is like. One that is planned and carefully worked towards is key and putting an end date in the diary is useful. The general rule of thumb is that the longer you have been in therapy, the more gradual the ending process will be. Some clients find it useful to reduce the frequency of their sessions once the end date is in place as a sort of “weaning off” process.
- How would you like to spend your last session? The final session is a chance to mark the end of your therapy in whatever way you feel appropriate, so discuss your thoughts with your therapist. I have had some wonderful ending sessions with clients and a lot of emotions inevitably arise. One client described it as feeling like she was graduating and felt excited about what the next step would be. Others have brought in cake and coffee, and we have toasted in celebration, and some have done creative collages and drawings of our time together. It is a very unique and personal ending, and as a therapist it is an honour to be a part of that experience.
Here’s wishing you a good ending!