In the last three posts, I have focused on how I approach the different stages of therapy in my practice – this post in the series focuses on the final stage of ending the therapeutic relationship.
Upon entering therapy, many people wonder how long therapy will last or how they will know when our work together is finished. There is no absolute answer to these questions. The duration of therapy depends on many factors, including but not limited to:
- Your therapeutic goals
- Your therapeutic progress
- The therapeutic relationship
- The issue(s) or problem(s) for which you are seeking therapy
- Your level of motivation and participation in the therapeutic process
- Your prior experiences and how long you have been struggling with the current issue/problem
- Your approach to therapy (i.e. are you looking for a safe space to process and talk through things or are you action-oriented and focused on specific outcomes?)
I believe that therapy can be helpful to anyone and I personally return to my own therapy periodically when I am wanting extra support or to explore something that has come up for me. I’ve worked with people who intend to engage in some level of therapy for the rest of their lives and I’ve worked with other people who come in with a very specific goal and once they’ve met that goal – sometimes in as few as 5 sessions – they wrap-up therapy for the time being. I provide these examples to illustrate the broad range of possibility that therapy can entail. There is no right or wrong way to approach therapy!
So how will you or I know when our work together is done (for the time being)? I approach this question collaboratively through an open dialogue between myself and the client. One thing to keep in mind is that, as the client, you have the right to end therapy at any time. Typically, I find that it becomes pretty clear to both of us when we are nearing the end of therapy and generally therapy concludes when the client no longer feels he or she needs the additional support to move forward in his or her life.
Ending the therapeutic relationship is a process and is an important stage of therapy in and of itself. Often times in our lives – when a relationship ends – it doesn’t occur in a healthy and healing way. Concluding the therapeutic relationship can be incredibly healthy and healing. I ask my clients to, if at all possible, let me know when they are thinking of ending therapy. This allows us to end the relationship therapeutically – by focusing on strengths and reviewing the progress you made during our work together.
Finally, the end is never the absolute end. It is not a sign of failure if, at some point, you choose to return to therapy. In fact, it is a sign of strength and commitment to yourself if, when you need additional support, you seek it out. So even if we decide to take a break from therapy or we end our work together – you are always welcome back to therapy at any point in the future.
Are you currently looking for a therapist? To schedule an appointment, contact me today at catherine@embracestrengthcounseling or visit my website for more information about my services.
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