When Is It a Good Time to End Therapy?

Q: Dear Frank, Here is an excellent question we’ve received. “When is it a good time to end therapy?”

A: Dear reader, I’m going to avoid the obvious answers like, end it when all the goals are reached. Or end it when you feel it isn’t really going anywhere. Or end it when the insurance coverage runs out.

The real problem, from the perspective of both the therapist and the client, is how to end therapy that has done you considerable good, that still feels comfortable and supportive, but that goes on a long time with little real improvement in your quality of life. Gift From Within serves many different people, women and men, young and old, who share a common challenge: exposure to traumatic stress. When the trauma is sudden, swift and powerful, the result is often Post Traumatic Stress Injury.

If you have this injury, you may be fortunate to find a good therapist who uses experience and skills to relieve symptoms and restore confidence. But when the trauma occurs in childhood, and it involves family members, and it includes repetitive acts of betrayal, humiliation and neglect, the result is MORE than post traumatic stress injury. There is a disruption of ability to trust. There is difficulty managing intimacy. There are profound disturbances in a sense of coherence.

A good therapist can be the one who helps you become “whole” and “together” and capable of facing people who stir up feelings from a terrible past. Why would you EVER want to leave that therapist? But leave you must — because that therapist is not your best friend or your family member. That therapist may find it hard to leave you, not because of attachment, but because you haven’t really considered how to live without the reassuring support of this person who helped you stand on your own. The time to end therapy, if this is you, is now — or as soon as you can say, “Thank you for helping me. I want to try to make it on my own. May I call you if I need you? Or if I just want you to know how I am doing?” A good therapist will say, “Yes,” and will be there when you call.