If you’ve ever been to therapy, you know that the relationship is unique. You may tell your psychologist things you wouldn’t share with loved ones. “It’s the most intimate professional relationship you’ll ever have,” says John Norcross, a psychology professor at the University of Scranton. So what should you do when you’re ready to move on? See advice from psychologists.
EVALUATE YOUR INITIAL GOALS
Ideally, you set goals when you started therapy, says Dontea’ Mitchell-Hunter, psychotherapist. Ask yourself: Have I developed the skills to deal with life on my own?
You and your therapist should evaluate your progress, she says. “I’m always looking to see how they’re dealing with their stuff, their emotions, their triggers outside of therapy,” says Mitchell-Hunter. “Because the work of being in therapy actually happens outside of the therapy room.”
If you’re leaving because you’re dissatisfied, Norcross says, it can be tempting to disappear without explaining it to your psychologist. But that’s not the most productive way to handle it. Have a conversation, both as a courtesy to your therapist and as an empowering exercise.
Express your dissatisfaction with elements of the therapy that aren’t working and see if anything can be done to change the course of treatment, says Norcross. If you can’t muster the courage to do this in person, start with an email or text.
CREATE A POST-TREATMENT PLAN
Derek Seward, associate professor of counseling and counselor education at Syracuse University, recommends discussing scenarios that might trigger you after leaving therapy and role-playing how you would handle them. Then talk about what you should do if you face a crisis and want to come back. Decide on specific ways to get in touch, like email, says Seward.
MAKE YOUR LAST SESSION MEANINGFUL
All three experts recommended celebrating your last session in some way. Saying goodbye is a sign of growth, says Mitchell-Hunter, adding that she called her last sessions “graduation.”
Norcross says some of her customers brought candy or cakes on their last day. Other patients cry. “It’s all normal,” she says.