Ending therapy can be a difficult decision. It’s hard to know when you’re ready, and even harder to know what to do when you are. In this post, we’ll explore the process of ending therapy and provide some tips on how to make the process as smooth as possible.
Therapy is a process, not an event. It’s something that you work on, together with your therapist, until you reach a point where you feel ready to end it. Ending therapy is not a one-time event; it’s something that you need to plan for and execute carefully.
Therapy isn’t always linear, and there are times when you are forced to make changes to your therapy plan. This can include ending therapy with your therapist and finding new services. Or perhaps you’ve made progress and you and/or your therapist no longer feel like you need therapy.
No matter the case, it’s important to talk to your therapist before you end therapy. This is an important conversation and should not be taken lightly. Your therapist will want to know why you are ending therapy and may offer other suggestions or ways to help you continue getting the most out of therapy. Perhaps going from once a week to bi-weekly sessions will be more beneficial. If cost is a factor, your therapist may offer a sliding scale.
Prior to ending therapy, it’s important to check in with yourself. Below are some questions to ask yourself about ending therapy:
– Am I feeling better?
– Do I really feel like I don’t need therapy anymore or do I just need a break?
– What is the reason why I don’t want to continue therapy?
– Do I need a different therapist?
– What will my life be like without therapy?
– What are my fears about ending therapy? What can I do to address those fears?
Asking yourself these questions, and having answers prepared, can help you figure out if ending therapy is right for you. These answers can also help your therapist navigate this conversation.
It’s not always easy to end therapy. In fact, it can be downright difficult. However, it is also a sign that you have made progress and no longer need the help of a therapist. There are a number of factors to consider when ending therapy: the reason for ending, the therapist’s feelings about the decision, the impact on the therapeutic relationship, and the logistics of ending therapy.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these factors.
One of the most common reasons people end therapy is because they are finding it difficult to build a rapport with their therapist, or that the connection is lost. According to psychiatrist Prakash Massand M.D, one sign of this could be“ ‘if at one time you looked forward to going to therapy because it provided you clarity and direction but now you don’t feel you are getting much out of it or worse, it feels like a major task, the connection has probably been lost.’ “
Once the conversation moves more towards chit chat and checking in, outside of the occasional lul, this can be an indication that it’s time to end therapy. Feeling like you’re having to make up things to discuss to fill in the time or telling more stories of success about the therapeutic techniques you applied to your life is also another indicator that it might be time to end therapy.
Congratulations! Accomplishing your therapy goals is a major step. As with physical therapy, once you’ve achieved your goals you and your provider might want to start talking about ending therapy.
Remember, therapy isn’t meant to be permanent. According to Debra Kissen, PhD, CEO of the Light On Anxiety CBT Treatment Center, “ ‘the goal is not to create a permanent patient, but to have someone become their own coach…Progress doesn’t mean you’re not going to feel uncomfortable or scared — it just means you’re going to have the tools to handle it, and you can rely on yourself.’ ” [Source] Once you can be your own coach and have the tools to handle situations you can consider ending therapy.
If you have accomplished your original therapy goals but have identified new goals, then ending therapy might not be right for you.
According to Tawana Bennett, MA “regularly practicing self-care is another positive sign that someone may be ready to end therapy” [Source]. If you’ve learned to prioritize your mental health care this is a great sign of progress.
Sometimes, people don’t want to work on an issue and that’s why they feel that ending therapy is best. It’s important to ask yourself do you actually feel ready to end therapy or are you avoiding deeper issues that could be addressed in therapy. This is a hard question to ask yourself and might take awhile to find an answer. But you know who can help? Your therapist! Journaling any issues you haven’t brought up to your therapist can also be beneficial. Seeing which of these issues you now have the skills to handle versus the ones therapy could still help with can be a good visual.
Adjusting to a post-therapy life can cause feelings of anxiousness. For others it’s a sense of relief or pride in oneself. Having mixed feelings about ending therapy is normal and it’s okay if your feelings don’t match up with others feelings. If you are still seeing your therapist for a few more sessions, discuss these feelings with them.
Just like your car needs a regular tune-up, so does your brain. Maintenance sessions are an important part of ending therapy. They help to ensure that you remain stable and healthy after ending therapy. These sessions are typically shorter in duration and are meant to help the therapist and client assess the progress that has been made since the last session. They also give the therapist an opportunity to provide any necessary support and guidance.
If you’re unsure of what your life will be like without therapy, you can try to practice coping skills in the meantime to help you feel more comfortable.
If you’re thinking about ending therapy, it’s important to be sure you’re making the best decision. This can include changing therapists instead of stopping therapy. You may feel like you can’t just walk away from a therapist you’ve been working with for so long and that seeing another therapist would be “betraying” them. This is not the case! Changing therapists is a normal part of finding a therapist. Your therapist may be able to coach you on how to switch therapists, and may be able to help you find a therapist who fits into your life better.
Your therapist may be upset to hear that you want to end therapy but they have heard this before. Always be honest with your therapist about why you are thinking about ending therapy. They can help you process the why behind ending therapy. Perhaps they agree that you have reached your therapy goals. Or maybe they didn’t know the current treatment plan wasn’t working and would like to try something new.
Waiting until the last minute to talk about ending therapy is not recommended. Ending therapy should be a gradual process. In fact, it’s recommended by experts to actually move to biweekly sessions, then monthly. By having these “closing” sessions, you can help to establish a continued behavior of reflection.
If you are thinking about ending therapy, it’s best to mention it sooner rather than later.
Your therapist might even mention how much progress you have made. This can be a great transition into the discussion of ending therapy.
It might feel strange to think of ending therapy after only 3-4 months. Especially if you have friends or family that have been in therapy for much longer. Therapy progresses at a different pace for everyone. For some, it takes years. For others only a few months might be enough for them to achieve their therapy goals. When on the topic of talking about ending therapy it’s important to focus on the progress you’ve made – not the length of time you’ve been in therapy.
If you feel like you’ve made sufficient progress then it’s worth mentioning that to your therapist. They may agree with you or feel there is still more progress to be made. No matter what, the decision to end therapy is ultimately your decision but it’s always best to consult your therapist first.
Unfortunately, this is a very real problem many people have. As inflation raises the cost of goods and services while wages stay stagnant, many find themselves unable to afford therapy. This is especially the case for some clients who are seeing speciality therapists who may not be covered under the insurance.
The best thing to do is talk to your therapist and their office to see what resources are available. Many therapists, especially those in private practice, will work with you. Of course there are some who will be unable to work with you. In those situations GoFundMe has put together a list of resources for those looking for more affordable therapy options. These include:
– Government assistance programs for mental health
– Nonprofits that offer mental health resources
– University mental health services
– Low-cost online therapy options
Some therapy practices offer lower-cost therapy through non-profits.
If you’re struggling to afford therapy it’s always worth it to talk to your therapist before abruptly ending therapy.
If you’re thinking of ending therapy due to relocating you might have other options rather than ending therapy. Many therapists now offer telehealth (online therapy) which allows you to have therapy from anywhere. If your therapist does not offer telehealth it can still be valuable to ask them about it. They may not offer it to new clients but may offer it to long-term clients.
If you’re moving out of state, your therapist may not be licensed to see you in your new state. Each state has different licensing requirements. Your therapist may not be able to continue seeing you as a client or they may be able to get licensed in your state. If they are, telehealth will be your method of communication! Online therapy is very similar to in-person therapy but it is done from anywhere.
Keep in mind, if you’re using insurance to pay for your therapy, your insurance may not take out-of-state insurance. Ask about what the cost will be for future sessions or if they will take your new insurance.
As with cost, talking to your therapist about your move and if you’ll be able to continue seeing them is the best way to get answers.
Sometimes, you need to start therapy again. That’s okay! No matter your reason for ending and beginning therapy you can start again.
If the same thoughts are bothering you again, your previous therapist may be able to take you on as a client again. But if your therapy needs are different, or out of the scope of your previous clinician it might be time to find a new therapist.
That’s where Stellar Pro can help. We verify our clinicians’ advanced training and expertise to help match you with a therapist that will help you reach your therapy goals.
There is no shame in admitting you need help again. If your arm was hurting and you went to the doctor to get patched up and then a year later your arm started hurting again you wouldn’t not go back to the doctor. Would you? Your mental health is the same way! It’s important to take care of your mental health the same way you would your arm.
Ending therapy is a big step in the healing journey. Perhaps you’re moving on to another therapist. Maybe you’ve reached your therapy goals. No matter your reason for ending therapy it’s important to acknowledge the progress you have made so far. However, if you ever feel like you need to start therapy again – that’s okay!
Thinking about starting therapy again? Stellar Pro can help.