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Sharon K. Anderson
Sharon K. Anderson

Ending Therapy: Two Good Reasons to Fire Your Psychotherapist (And How to Say "Goodbye")

There are several good reasons to end therapy. Here's two.

This post was co-written with Mitchell M. Handelsman, PhD, whose blog is "The Ethical Professor" and who co-authored the book Ethics for Psychotherapists and Counselors.

The process of ending psychotherapy is a relatively neglected topic. Psychotherapists can go through their training and spend lots of time on the first interview and the process of change, but spend little time on how to end it. And yet, there are significant ethical issues to be addressed (Anderson & Handelsman, 2010). For example, therapists might feel so comfortable with a client that they miss some obvious signs that psychotherapy should end. This comfort may include social, financial, emotional, and even romantic components.

Decisions about ending therapy can also be difficult for you, the client. How do you know when it's time to stop working with your therapist? There are several good reasons to end therapy, and our major point is that you should never feel uncomfortable bringing

You've worked hard and accomplished your goals!

up the issue with your therapist. In this blog, we present two basic reasons to consider ending therapy and offer some ways to approach the topic with your therapist.

The first reason is that therapy has worked; you and your psychotherapist set clear and achievable goals at the start and the two of you have accomplished them. Your therapist has worked him or herself out of a job and you feel it's time to say, "Goodbye." Congratulations on the good work you've done!

Some clients may feel hesitant to bring up the issue of stopping therapy. They may feel like it's not their place, or that their therapist will be insulted or hurt. In fact, you share the decision-making responsibility with the therapist and you can always bring up the "Goodbye" discussion. And if therapists feel insulted or hurt, they need to deal with those inappropriate feelings with their own therapists!

The strategy is pretty straightforward: You can feel good about wanting to stop therapy and say to your therapist, "I think I've made good progress and don't feel the need to come anymore." Most therapists will welcome your comment. Indeed, it's very probable that your therapist has been thinking the same thing. A good way to end your work together is review the things you've learned about yourself, your goals in therapy, and how you'll know if and when you need to seek out therapy again. It would also be good to talk about how it feels to say this important "goodbye." After all, you may be experiencing feelings of loss and sadness along with joy and satisfaction.

It's great when therapy ends with both of you agreeing that all of your goals have been met. At the other end of the continuum is another reason to end therapy: It just isn't working. The goals you established at the beginning of psychotherapy are still out there and you can't see any positive steps toward them. It might be tha

Dissatisfaction...Therapy isn't working.

t you selected the wrong therapist because of their approach to the issues or maybe you just don't connect with him or her. Research suggests that the relationship between the client and therapist is a key factor in successful therapy (Hubble, Duncan, & Miller, 1999). In this situation, it might feel difficult or uncomfortable to bring up your dissatisfaction but it's important that you do! Sharing your dissatisfaction is the first step toward a rewarding outcome. You might discover your therapist has been concerned about the lack of progress as well and is very willing to explore what they could do differently or who might be a better match therapeutically for you. In either case, the decision should be yours. It's your right to decide to continue or to say, "Listen, this therapy isn't working for me. I appreciate your hard work but I won't be coming back."

In our next blog entry, we'll consider some more reasons for ending psychotherapy.


Anderson, S. K., & Handelsman, M. M. (2010). Ethics for psychotherapists and counselors: A proactive approach. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

Hubble, M. A., Duncan, B. L., & Miller, S. D. (Eds.), (1999). The heart and soul of change: What works in therapy. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

About the Author
Sharon K. Anderson

Sharon K. Anderson, Ph.D., is a Professor of Counseling and Career Development at Colorado State University.

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