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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!

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.

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.