As adults we have the ability to create or sever relationships as we see fit. When ending a therapeutic relationship, however, it is always encouraged to at least discuss your intent to leave therapy with your counselor before you decide to spontaneously (and permanently) cancel or no-show. Despite the professional client/clinician relationship and the boundaries that exist within those parameters, we, as therapists, still admittedly feel confused, frustrated and in some cases, hurt, especially when a longtime client just suddenly disappears. The purpose of discussing a possible departure isn’t intended to make the client feel bad or guilt them into staying in therapy. Instead, it’s about processing what worked, what didn’t work and providing closure for both parties.
As therapists, we get it, people are not always going to be able to continue with treatment. Financial burdens, time constraints, not being ready for therapy or yes, even because you don’t like your therapist are all common reasons for discontinuing therapy. As for the last reason, a professional and experienced therapist will understand and take the time to help you find a better fit.
Let’s take this a step further and imagine how this might feel to a child, who through no choice of his/her own is pulled out of therapy. There has been no greater concern for me (aside from a crisis situation) than the well being of the child whose parent suddenly stops bringing their son or daughter to their therapy sessions. As a parent you may feel that there is no progress, that nothing is changing, or things are getting worse. These may all be true, but it is important to consider that your child may be slowly developing or has already developed a level of trust and comfort with their therapist. Gaining a child’s trust is no easy feat, especially if they did not want to come to therapy in the first place. Abrupt terminations initiated by parents can, in fact, damage the child’s ability to trust the next therapist. If your child is saying that they don’t like their therapist, then that is an opportunity for discussion and exploration. If in fact the therapist believes that the child is not benefitting or would be better served by another professional, then that is the perfect opportunity for the child to learn healthy “closure” skills, giving him/her the ability to process the potential loss. Appropriate modeling is sometimes the best form of care any child can receive.
Therapy is a relationship, and like many relationships, they will, and sometimes must end. The point is that there is nothing terrible or bad about having to tell your therapist that you want to stop. Termination is part of the therapy process and part of that relationship. Termination is also natural, expected and a healthy step towards building higher quality relationships within your own, personal life.