Therapy: when to end

There's no neat answer to any therapy-related question really, including the one I often get asked about when you should end therapy.

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Mar 22, 2017
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There's no neat answer to any therapy-related question really, including the one I often get asked about when you should end therapy. While I may well suggest therapy is ready to come to an end (I'd never abruptly end), in my experience, most clients know when they are ready to end.

It may be that you find yourself experiencing more and more 'successes' outside of the consulting room - 'successes' being measured against your original goals, such as drinking less, flying off the handle less, being kinder to yourself. Or, it may be that you have a better handle on those parts of you that used to take hold: the angry or jealous or guilty part. It may also be that behaviours may not have changed much on the outside, but you feel more resourced on the inside to deal with stresses. Or, of course you have run out of funds or your therapist isn't as skilled/supportive/whatever as you'd hoped and you want to try someone else. No neat answer as I say. So, just one example: maybe you came to therapy to look at your quick temper. You spent time understanding its pesky roots, along with the most activating triggers and then you experimented with tools to manage it. Once you've had a few 'successes' - ie becoming increasingly able to react appropriately to an inflammatory something rather than flying off the handle, you may then feel you are ready to 'take the stabilisers off' as one client of mine put it.

Therapy can also, sometimes, 'get too much' - the talking and thinking will inevitably take us 'into our heads', but some of us may get stuck there, endlessly working out our own motivations and those of others around us, so that we can end up losing touch with our feelings entirely. I'd argue that good therapy will do its best to avoid this - it won't ignore the body (and thus the emotional world residing in it) and won't allow just 'head' work, with its danger of 'analysis paralysis' to set in. But for some of us, it may take a while to feel truly comfortable with tuning into our body and feelings - I certainly did when I started therapy - and this type of therapy may feel too much. It may be the therapy can work this out, but it may also be that you need a break to assimilate and come back to it - or try a different type of therapy that relies more on the 'head' than others - such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

Your therapist may disagree with your wish to end - I hope because he/she has your best interests in mind. I have often felt some endings have come prematurely - but it's not up to me to insist on anyone coming.

Go to the profile of Julia Bueno

Julia Bueno

Anxiety, depression, pregnancy loss and infertility.

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