How we end a relationship is just as important as how we begin one. Sometimes the work I do involves supporting clients in figuring out how to best end relationships. They could be toxic, or just no longer aligned with the client’s goals and values. Many people have negative stories around endings. This may be due to bad break-ups, job termination, or the loss of loved ones. Because of this, I believe it is important to help a client re-write their story around endings. The therapeutic process can be a great way for a client to practice having both successful beginnings and endings.
In the beginning of the therapeutic relationship, I set the stage by clearly stating both my and the client’s role. Expectations are articulated and goals are identified. I give the client permission to correct me if I am getting wrong, in order to make sure that we stay connected during the process. This allows the client to get the most out of the therapeutic relationship.
In the same way the ending of the therapeutic relationship is just as important. There are several benefits to having a termination session once your goals have been reached.
You are able to see the growth you’ve made over time
The termination session is a great time to look back. Reviewing the journey you have made can help you see how far you’ve come. Ending your therapeutic relationship doesn’t mean that your life is now problem free; it simply means that you have the tools you need to manage it on your own.
You can identify the tools that helped you reach your goals
When changes happen and become habit, it can be a little challenging to remember what you did to get there. Having a termination session can remind you of the steps you took to reach your goals. When you know what you did to get there, you have what you need to get back when you are thrown off track.
You increase your sense of taking ownership for your change
You did it! You did the hard and often painful work and are seeing the fruits of your labor. You are now able to function in your life in the way that you wanted to. This is something to celebrate, and having a final session with your therapist gives you an opportunity to do just that.
You have a chance to say thank you
Most therapists choose this work because of a deep desire to help people in pain heal and achieve their goals. When we see our clients do the work and begin to heal and grow this is very rewarding. It can be an important part of the client’s journey to have the opportunity to say thank you.
You get to experience a positive ending
Last but not least, you get to have the experience of a positive ending to a relationship. Your relationship with your therapist is simply ending because the work you came in to do is finished. This allows you to close the door in a positive way and open the door to continue your journey with the support system you have been building along the way. Having one positive ending, leads to the possibility of others.
Now, I just want to be clear that positive doesn’t always mean happy. It could be bitter sweet or even a little sad. It is however, an ending in which you are clear about the reasons and you are able to communicate them with respect. Remember, the goal is to express ourselves well keeping in mind that we are unable to control how the other person responds.
So if you are nearing the end of your journey with your therapist I encourage you to have that last session. It’s a great way to end an amazing journey.