Every therapy journey has a beginning and an ending. The first session is one in which information is gathered and shared, goals are identified, and potential interpersonal connections made. Inevitably, this relationship must end. Sometimes it is due to life circumstances like graduation and relocation or a lack of connection with the clinician, but sometimes these relationships end when there is a mutual understanding that therapy goals have been met.
Saying goodbye can often be incredibly difficult for clients. Therapists have usually received clinical training on "termination," but it does not mean saying goodbye is something we enjoy or aren't affected by. Over the past 10+ years, I have had many final sessions with clients. I have learned that I am part of peoples' stories and have accepted that sometimes I am a paragraph or a chapter, and sometimes I'm the whole book! Clients share so much of their pain (and joy!) and then we break up! But, like, it's one of those mutual ones where we're like prepared to end things. We (therapists) want you to be ok! We want you to grow! We want you to set boundaries, express your needs, love and accept yourself, and heal from pain. Because of this, it means we also know that at some point, we will say goodbye. Here are some things to consider when therapy is ending:
Think about how you are feeling as you prepare to end therapy. It is completely ok to feel sad, scared, anxious, happy, excited and any other feelings that come up. You have (hopefully) experienced a strong, caring, emotionally intimate, safe space with someone who has listened, supported, and guided you.
Ask your therapist for feedback (if you want). Sometimes, you may not see the progress you've made or the things you want to continue working on. It is important to recognize the hard work you have done.
Know that it is ok to return to therapy (with that therapist or a different one). It's ok to need to check in, get a psychological tune up, or process and explore things you didn't, or try a different style of therapy. Returning does not mean you have failed; it means you recognize and are open to seeking out help as you process through things.
I'm not an expert at saying goodbye. And personally, I for real might need an extra session AFTER the final session with my own therapist so that we can process what it was like for me to say goodbye to them lol
I wonder, how is it for you to say goodbye? - Dr.B