As we approach the end of the year there are some folks who may be wondering how to close out their therapy sessions because they’re running out of benefits, coverage, or simply coming to a close with their therapy sessions. It can be hard to close therapy out. Goodbye to therapy sessions has been difficult for as long as I can remember doing therapy. I use to ask my supervisors how one could close out therapy sessions in a kind way and I’ve heard everything under the sun.
It’s so important that however we handle therapy termination the client is involved throughout the process. We really want to leave as much time as possible to prepare someone for these conversations and closing activities. Often times when the ending is decided on collaboratively then the client knows it’s coming and can address their concerns, feelings or just generally have time to chew on the ending with their therapist.
The most helpful advice comes from Dr. Dowtin at PlayfulLeigh Psyched who suggests preparing therapy to close well in advance and to have a closure activity. One of my all time favorite activities was decorating a picture together so they could keep it, frame it, etc. I have several cards and sweet notes from children and families I served in various areas in the US (with their names removed of course because HIPAA). I too have written letters to clients thanking them, highlighting special moments in therapy or their growth, and honoring the transition as we close their time in therapy. You can write a letter, choose a special song, or do some other closing activity to signify this time together and the client’s journey. Sometimes people will feel a closure activity could be as simple, but powerful as highlighting all you’ve done in therapy.
That’s actually my favorite part of completing therapy with a client; reflecting on their gains. I love mirroring where they started and where they are now. I love seeing them fulfilled with their efforts and the support they got and gave themself. It’s even more special to me when a client can reflect on these gains themself. I’m happy to do it for them because I know it’s not always easy to see where we’ve changed, but it’s so great when people tell me “when I started, I never could’ve figured out how I was feeling, let alone tell my mom” or “I’ve come so far and now have open communication with my partner”! Wow do I love to hear people make these changes.
And sometimes there aren’t magical shifts and a person desires a different type of therapy or fit. That’s okay and can be honored too. Several people come to me after working with several therapists who weren’t welcoming around their intersecting identities. I know we assume therapists should be inclusive, but so many are not. For some therapists they simply don’t specialize in something you need like if they work with anxiety but not trauma, you may need to start working with a trauma specialist. It’s important to know why you’re closing therapy with one provider so you can be sure to get what you need in the next therapy relationship.
Please also get appropriate referrals from your community or therapist. Your therapist may even be willing to stand by for a few weeks or month while you reach out, attend free 15 minute therapy consultations and find a good fit therapist for your needs. They don’t have to, but you can totally ask them to hang out for a short while so you can secure a new therapist.
Whether you’ve graduated from this type of therapy and are ready to level up to a different type of therapy, need a break from therapy while your benefits come in, or are simply done with therapy I honor the work you’ve done. I honor your trauma recovery. I honor you and your therapeutic journey.
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