When to End Therapy - 3 Signs You Should Be Aware Of
There are plenty of reasons people start therapy, and many ways therapy can help us overcome challenges, and to feel good. Some good things do come to an end—yes, there can be an end to therapy.
“There is an end to therapy and it comes when the client and therapist recognize that there is no further benefit in meeting,” says Jacob Emanuel, Registered Psychotherapist (Qualifying). “That the relationship is not aiding the client's ability to live with autonomy.”
But, how do you recognize those signs? What should you look out for?
3 clear signs it might be time to end therapy
1. Your needs have changed
When you decide to find a therapist, you’ll likely consider why you’re going to therapy, such as grief, repairing relationships, or handling anxiety. But, there are other factors at play too, like the therapist’s price per session and your budget, the location, or whether or not they offer in person or virtual therapy sessions.
Read more: signs you found a good therapist
Over time, you might move and can no longer meet in person, or your income or schedule changes, or your workplace health benefits shift and no longer cover your therapist or counsellor. Possibly, a new challenge could come up in your life that requires a different kind of therapist with the appropriate speciality.
If something has shifted in your regular day-to-day life and it’s impacting your ability to attend your sessions in the way you prefer or need, it’s a sign it’s no longer a good fit.
2. Your relationship with the therapist, or your work together, has plateaued
The relationship with a therapist is the number one predictor of success.
There are instances in which your relationship can sour—a very good reason to end things. In other cases, your work together may simply plateau. This could mean you no longer have anything to talk about, or you feel good about your discussions in your sessions but they don’t seem to be going anywhere (you aren’t building or trying new skills, or you aren’t taking anything new away from your sessions into your regular life).
A fresh perspective might help shift things into gear again. That could mean trying a new therapist, or taking a break for a while.
3. You’ve reached your goals
Ideally, assuming it’s not a crisis or emergency, when you start therapy you and your therapist set some goals and intentions for your work together. That can help you recognize if progress is being made.
“Often the end is a natural progression when the client and/or therapist feel they have addressed the therapeutic goals,” says Sofia Forman, Registered Psychotherapist.
Regularly checking in on how therapy is going can help you understand if it’s helping you and if you’re making progress toward those goals. This could be attending a party without feeling nervous, feeling more confident at work, better communicating with friends or loved ones, changing jobs, etc. Your goals are personal to you.
What if you do feel better? Is there any benefit to just continuing to go to therapy? If you’re feeling better now, perhaps continuing to go will make you feel even better? Not necessarily…
I feel better. Should I keep going to therapy?
If you are feeling better or you have some evidence you’ve met some of the goals you and your therapist established at the start of your work together, ending therapy or pausing can help ensure those new skills are there to stay.
Sasha Lizarraga, Registered Social Worker, Psychotherapist and Doula says, “Once we acquire the basic skills and have uncovered an important insight we have to pause and integrate the work. If we follow our often toxic impulse of wanting more and for changes to occur faster, we risk weakening the work we’ve done thus far.”
Our brains need time to repeat and recall new lessons for them to be committed to long-term memory. Cramming for an exam might help you pass the test, but you won’t remember that information a month later. We need time and space for new information to settle.
Sasha continued, “We must pause and allow our newfound discoveries to land and take root within us. At this pace, one might seek guidance every few months, or even once a year. Though once we cultivate this kind of awareness, the path towards personal growth never stops, it will continue with oneself.”
How to end therapy
In some cases, it may be your therapist who brings up termination, either because they recognize first that you’ve made progress or, in some cases, they feel they are not the best fit to help you go any further and they advise you to make a change.
If you’re feeling like it might be time to stop attending your sessions, it’s important and courteous to talk to your therapist before stepping away from your sessions. You’ve likely built a rapport and relationship with this person, and the process of ending therapy is still a part of your work together. Leaving them without warning removes your opportunity to learn from them, ask questions, and really evaluate your time together.
If you’re doing well, chances are very good they’ll be happy to hear you’re ready to step away.