A couple with whom I have been working just finished therapy. It’s almost always bittersweet to finish therapy with a client, but it is the icing on the cake. When a client is willing, it is important to do what is called a termination session. We did that today. It can be hard, but it’s important.
Throughout this blog post, I will use the term “termination” but “closure” is also an appropriate term.
What is a Termination Session?
A Termination Session is the last session at the end of a course of therapy. In general, the following issues are discussed:
- How does s/he or they feel about finishing therapy
- Goal assessment
- What did the client learn; how did s/he or they heal
- Challenges s/he or they still face
- How will s/he or they handle similar issues in the future
- Resources (including the therapist)
- Feedback for the therapist (what was helpful and what would have helped)
- What the therapist learned from the client; client’s strengths
Why is a Termination Session Important?
It’s purpose is to provide closure. Why is closure important? Many clients lack closure in previous relationships and situations. We can teach them what it is like to wrap things up well. To look at what was accomplished is very important. In sessions with clients, we look at the goals, where we started in relation to those goals, periodic status updates, and then where we finished. It helps both client and therapist to see the progress that was made and changes the client made in his/her life.
Challenges and Resources
It is common for the client to still face challenges in his/her life. Acknowledging what these are and highlighting the tools they have learned helps to see progress. We also talk about the resources the client has to face challenges in the future. The client often feels empowered.
For the therapist, feedback provides an invaluable source of self evaluation. It helps you improve, but it also helps you realize what you did well. As therapists we so seldom get feedback either way unless we actively solicit feedback. If you solicit feedback from a client, you need to be open to hearing both the good and the bad. Realize that most feedback is constructive and remain positive. They have been vulnerable in providing you feedback so be sure to thank them!
Why Doesn’t a Termination Session Happen and What to Do About It?
It can be difficult to have clients show up for the final session. Many clients schedule and either cancel or just don’t show up.
Why do people not want to do termination sessions:
- They feel rejected by the therapist
- It brings up feelings of situations that didn’t have closure in the past
- They think they are done and don’t want to pay for another session
- They don’t want to or never learned how to say goodbye
- Fear of losing a support person
- They don’t want to end the relationship
- Clients may be afraid of critiquing the therapist
How to get the client to the termination session:
- Discuss the fact that many clients don’t want to come to a termination session and talk about it
- Talk about what will be discussed in the final session so clients know what to expect
- Explore the specific benefits of a termination session
- Perhaps use a different word other than “termination” such as “closure” or “final” session
As a licensed therapist of over 20 years, I provide clinical supervision for therapists seeking LPC and LMFT licensure. I can help you develop the practice you desire and explore a variety of tools within your therapeutic frame.
Call me at (303) 444-2003 to schedule a supervision session.