In Therapy, Goodbyes Are Just as Important as Hellos

I want to talk with you about therapy, the kind that we practice at Rice Psychology Group. We all became psychologists or therapists because we care about people and want to be helpful. We enjoy relationships, getting to know individuals and families, working together to figure out what’s going on and how to help things get better for you. We invest a great deal of ourselves in the work we do with our clients, from the very first few minutes together until it’s time to say goodbye. And the goodbye is the part that I want to focus on today.

In the Beginning…

When beginning therapy, many people experience immediate relief. However, we often don’t know how many sessions and/or what length of time will be needed for you to thoroughly address your problems or obtain the level of growth you desire. We do know that one or two meetings is usually not enough. Most of our problems don’t spring up overnight and it usually takes some time to really understand and treat them. All the while, we’re building a relationship.

In psychology speak, we’d call this “establishing rapport and a therapeutic alliance”. Research study after research study has pointed to the relationship between the therapist and client as one of the most, if not the most, important factor in whether clients achieve their therapeutic goals. And we all know that in order for relationships to work, both sides need to invest in building and sustaining it.

Therapy can be a lifesaver, and like many things in life, the more you put into it, the more you get out of it. 

Sticking with it Until the End

Endings in therapy are designed to be different than what happens in other areas of our lives. Click To Tweet

Each therapy relationship and journey is different, but a few things are important across the board. At the start, the therapist and client begin to get to know each other, to unravel the client’s story and develop a treatment plan. The middle phase is where much of the therapeutic work and experiences occur. What many people don’t realize, however, is that the ending of therapy is just as important. If you’ve decided to participate in therapy for yourself, your child or family, I encourage you to make it to the end.

Now, the end can be the fourth, the fourteenth or even the fortieth session. Endings in therapy are designed to be different than what happens in many other areas of our lives. Ideally, they aren’t sudden and don’t include death, abandonment or divorce. Instead, ending therapy is a planned event that provides a chance to celebrate, reflect and remember, and plan for the future. It’s an opportunity to leave on good terms.

Sometimes it’s goodbye and sometimes it’s so long for now. However, in my role as a psychologist, I struggle when folks decide to unexpectedly cancel their next appointment or opt not to return without any conversation or planning. This is especially challenging for me if we’ve been working together for some time and the therapeutic relationship has been an important component, allowing us to explore sensitive subjects, address private thoughts and work through some challenging moments together.

Sometimes parents decide to discontinue their child’s therapy and don’t realize that their child has formed a bond with the therapist. When therapy ends abruptly, especially for a child, I fear that we’re sending the message that people are disposable and interchangeable, that relationships don’t matter.

Don’t Let Other Factors Decide for You

When real-life issues arise, I encourage you not to run away or avoid your therapy appointments. Click To Tweet

I do realize that therapy requires financial commitment. I know, I’ve been there, too. And sometimes the expense becomes a burden that’s too difficult to continue. Health insurance is often of no help, or when it does pay, the insurance company dictates the number of sessions you can attend. At times, schedules or transportation can make attending sessions just too difficult.

When real-life issues arise, I encourage you not to run away or avoid your therapy appointments. Share these challenges with your therapist and see if something can be worked out. Sometimes sessions can be spaced farther apart, shortened, changed to a group format or some other creative solution can be found. At other times, a referral to a different therapist is the best option.

In any case, I encourage you not to just disappear. Let your therapist know what’s happening and come in for that final wrap-up session. In the psychoanalytic tradition, “termination” is an extended phase of therapy unto itself. Not so much in fast-paced 2017, but I still believe that there is value in saying a proper goodbye or so long for now, even if it is bittersweet. Doing so provides closure and honors the relationship and hard work that’s so often part of the therapeutic experience.

Wanting to See You Get Better

I understand that keeping up with therapy sessions can be difficult, but seeing the relationship and the therapy journey through to the end provides closure and can even help with further growth and healing. For more information on what my team and I can do for you, contact us today!

About Rice Psychology

Rice Psychology Group is home to a team of psychologists who work tirelessly to help adults, adolescents and children deal with their issues. Whether you’re currently dealing with depression, going through a divorce or fighting an issue you just can’t understand, know that our Tampa psychologists are here to help.

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