Termination- Planned or Unplanned

Termination- Planned or Unplanned

Among the major emotions, I may confront when addressing termination with a client are sadness and attachment feelings. Sometimes therapists have strong attachment feelings towards their clients especially children and may find it hard to terminate services. The therapist may feel the urge to protect a child who has gone through challenging situations in life (Green, 2019). Letting go may be difficult due to compassion and feelings that the child may be unsafe after therapy. This may also happen when working with an elderly person who an individual has worked with for a long time and cultivated a strong relationship. What happens during the end of therapy, is more like an end of a love relationship. Attachments and losses do not heal overnight.

During termination, I may also have to confront feelings of sadness. Although it is not ideal for a therapist to hold feelings towards their clients, they are humans and emotions cannot be controlled. Therapists may feel sad not every time, but there are a few clients they may find extremely hard to say goodbye to (Green, 2019). Of course, they have to let go as that is the right thing to do for them, but sadness is sometimes inevitable especially in the last session. The therapist in me, always does the right thing, even when I am particularly fond of a client. I often terminate therapy if I believe it is time, let go of those whom I feel I can no longer help, and fence off the attempts of some clients trying to stay in contact. But the other human in me sometimes struggles after terminating a meaningful and deep relationship, particularly if we shared a sense of humor. Due to sadness, I may feel the pain and still hold close to my heart those who went but wished had stayed close.

There are a few things I can do to process the feelings of attachment and sadness and make termination feel less drastic and wrenching. Termination is a process and as a therapist, I should make termination a process that involves taking as many sessions as needed in which the client and I talk about: what the client found useful about the therapy and what the client did not like, and what the client might want to do more work on some time in the future (Green, 2019). We should also show appreciation of each other and what we enjoyed about working together. I think it is useful when therapy ends for me to schedule a six-month checkup. In the “check-up” the client gets to talk about what it has been like to not be in therapy and how he or she handled life—what they were pleased with and what things were still challenging.

I can also offer clients the opportunity to have occasional sessions to work on a problem that comes up. This can be one session or more. It is done on an as-needed basis and it does not require them to commit to a regular session (Green, 2019). I can also keep in touch to know how my clients’ lives are going for them after therapy. My door will always be open for all my clients. If they have an issue to work on and we can find a mutually agreeable time, it is a joy to see them again. Every therapist has a different way of handling termination—and different policies about future contact. How they feel about therapy coming to an end is something they can talk about with their clients.

If termination is unplanned, one ethical obligation for therapists is to agree with the termination process. I will address this situation by seeking assistance from y supervisors and agreeing with the process. It is a critical transfer or refers the client to another therapist to ensure appropriate administrative and clinical processes are completed (Lappan, Shamoon & Blow, 2018). There should also be open communication between me and my client. One legal obligation for therapists is that they are legally required to handle every termination in a way that does not lead to client abandonment. I will address this by ensuring I have talked with the client concerning termination at the start of the therapy.



Lappan, S., Shamoon, Z., & Blow, A. (2018). The importance of adoption of formal client feedback in therapy: A narrative review. Journal of Family Therapy40(4), 466-488. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-6427.12183

Green, J. (2019). Adult Attachment Style and the Therapeutic Alliance as Predictors of Premature Therapy Termination: A Retrospective Chart Review. Doctoral Dissertations. 2202.


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