You are of course going to leave therapy, and the aim of a therapist is to make therapy no longer necessary in your life, and themselves redundant. The multitude of ways in which people eventually leave their therapist has set me thinking about the importance and meaning of discussing endings. You may have heard a therapist say that endings are important and need to be discussed from the beginning – but why?
How do you do endings – for example, how did your last friendship/relationship/therapy/job/yoga class etc come to an end? Are there any recognisable themes?
Getting started in psychotherapy can be difficult. Although the therapist will do all they can to make you feel welcome and comfortable, we have to focus on the reasons why you are coming, and this focus can be painful. But leaving can also be difficult.
At the beginning there can be a feeling of attraction, excitement or mystery, the sense of your own unexplored potential becoming more realisable. The relationship develops over time, and as the space opens up and becomes bigger, hopefully you come to enjoy your sessions and the work is enabling.
As the work progresses, your sense of needing to pull away, disengage, keep yourself separate – your sense of aversion – becomes more evident, and this can become a compelling or convincing sense of needing to leave.
The urge to leave and separate can be expressed in many ways. Some people become focused on other things and find it difficult to make the session times. This is a kind of fading away. This can sometimes be an expression of your relationship to commitment. Some people mix this up with commitment to the actual therapist, but it is about commitment to yourself, taking yourself and your growth, change, development and transformation seriously.
Maybe you have had the experience of abandonment and neglect so it pervaded your sense of being. You might or might not be aware of how you reveal this in the way you relate to the therapist as someone you can easily walk away from when you are feeling ok and you can leave behind a more needy or dependent state of mind. When there is a deeply ingrained sense of abandonment, sometimes it’s just easier to leave the other person so you have control over those feelings. If on the other hand, your sense of independence and free will was limited or held back, or you were overly controlled, or your parents were domineering, coercive or narcissistically preoccupied with their own needs, then you are likely to feel a need for some space in your therapeutic relationship. Rather than leaving prematurely, you could work online, take planned breaks, or reduce the frequency of sessions – rather than by dropping out or missing sessions. Most of all, you can come to recognise how some impulses that drive you can be an expression of dysregulation dating back to childhood when your feelings felt uncontained, and you were unable to manage them, and split them off out of conscious awareness.
The purpose of therapy is to help you become more self-aware so you can understand what is driving you that is not fully conscious. So if you have a feeling that is pushing you to do something, such as leave therapy before you have really got started, there is an opportunity to ask yourself what is driving it and where does it come from. Discussing your decision with your therapist is a way to become more self aware about your feelings about ending the relationship, and possibly also how you experience and manage all kinds of endings in your life.
There is of course no right or wrong way or time to leave therapy, because you are the one who makes the choice and decision. However, doing it from a place of self awareness can be more empowering and help you get the best value from your therapy. Are you afraid your therapist will try to hold onto you and stop you leaving for their own benefit rather than yours? Would you prefer to end by text or email, or right at the very end of a session, to prevent any discussion of the topic? If so, what might you be communicating about yourself?