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Therapy Lingo: What Does Termination Mean?

By: Bridgette W. Gottwald

There are plenty of terms that could be considered “therapy lingo” that the average person is not familiar with – termination might be one of them. Termination is known as successfully ending the relationship between therapist and client. Yes, we want you to work us out of the job. Don’t worry about us therapists, fortunately, there will always be a high demand for what we do! A client working us out of the job means that they are getting better and improving, and that’s the goal! We want you to feel equipped to handle and tackle life’s challenges on your own, although a check-in appointment is always a good thing! 

When Should I End Therapy? 

Termination can entail a sense of loss of attachment with the therapist. Sadness, anxiety, and anger during this time are completely normal. Termination can happen for all different kinds of reasons – a client moving to a new state where the therapist isn’t licensed, if the therapist feels endangered or being threatened, or “if the client is no longer receiving benefit from the treatment or has the potential for harm” (Sutton, J., 2021). 

Therapists assess the client’s ongoing treatment needs before initiating termination and ideally, the final phase of the relationship occurs when all goals have been accomplished. Amidst preparing for termination and termination itself, the therapist and client will work together to discuss and work through the following: 

  1. Agree how therapy will end from the outset
  2. Agree on treatment goals and what success looks like
  3. Prepare for therapist based interruptions to the treatment, as well as client-led interruptions to the treatment
  • Illness
  • Ethical conflicts
  • Retirement, leave, or family circumstances
  • Moving
  • Client not benefitting from the treatment
  1. Clarifying what abandonment is and what it is not
  • “Abandonment occurs when the therapist does not meet a client’s ongoing treatment needs appropriately” (Barnett, 2016).
  1. Plan for termination 

What Topics Will Be Covered in Termination and What Questions Will I Be Asked? 

Your therapist will guide you through the termination process, and ideally, give you a play-by-play as you go so that you are comfortable with the process. Amidst termination, the client’s wellbeing will be assessed, and questions asked might look like the following:

  • How would you rate your happiness level on a scale of 1-10?
  • Do you feel more confident in how you have coped with issues or concerns that have come your way?
  • Has your sleep hygiene improved?
  • On a scale of 1-10, how good do you feel about yourself?
  • Have there been improvements in your home life?
  • How satisfied are you with your relationships?
  • In what ways have you been living more healthily (diet, exercise, sleep, etc.)?
  • Have you been able to focus?
  • What are some key changes that have taken place?
  • What are some big takeaways from therapy?
  • What do you plan to continue to work on in day-to-day life? 

Termination can be tough, and often clients feel as if they are losing a large part of their support system and network. I often remind my clients that although we will no longer be seeing each other every week anymore, I will still be there for them outside of treatment. I encourage my clients to touch base and reach out when they feel compelled. Resuming treatment when things get tough is always an option, and terminating does not mean closing the door forever. 

Reference: 

Sutton, J. (2021). Termination in therapy: the art of gently letting clients go. Retrieved from: https://positivepsychology.com/termination-in-therapy/

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