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Terminating Therapy After 17 Years

Question:

I have attempted to terminate at least twenty times and either I or my doc will contact and begin the sessions again. There have been many good accomplishments and we have a good rapport but I’m not comfortable anymore because of things said to me of a personal nature. Thank you

You state that this Doc has said some things that were said to your of a "personal nature." I assume that you understand that therapy is very personal between therapist and patient and that personal things would be said by each of you. That is part of what we call the transference.

Sometimes people must feel very angry at another person before they can separate. I do not believe that is such a good thing.

What makes sense to me is for you to tell your Doc what has bothered you and clarify it. Then, tell the therapist that, after 17 years, you have been helped but you are ready to finish treatment and you want to do so without feeling angry.

In the end, you could just tell the Doc that you are done and do not wish to be called anymore. It is up to you. But, certainly, there is no reason to stay if you do not wish to.

Best of Luck 

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  • Dr. Schwartz responds to questions about psychotherapy and mental health problems, from the perspective of his training in clinical psychology.
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Answer:

Seventeen years, in my opinion, is long enough time in treatment with the same therapist. Therefore, if you want to end the sessions there is no reason why you should not. However, it seems as though you are ambivalent about a final termination. I am not certain why this is but you return for more sessions. If you try to stop, your therapist calls you and you return. I am not certain why you go back for more sessions and what stops you from being really final about this.

People have a variety of reasons for hanging on long after they need to. Some of those have to do with:

1. Feeling dependent on the therapist because they feel dependent on everyone in their lives.
2. Some type of guilt about separation issues.
3. Fear of provoking the anger or disapproval of the therapist if they leave.
4. Fear of not being able to return if, in the future, they may wish to.
5. Protecting the therapist from what the patient may view as hurting the therapist’s feelings if they leave.

And, there are many more factors.

You state that this Doc has said some things that were said to your of a "personal nature." I assume that you understand that therapy is very personal between therapist and patient and that personal things would be said by each of you. That is part of what we call the transference.

Sometimes people must feel very angry at another person before they can separate. I do not believe that is such a good thing.

What makes sense to me is for you to tell your Doc what has bothered you and clarify it. Then, tell the therapist that, after 17 years, you have been helped but you are ready to finish treatment and you want to do so without feeling angry.

In the end, you could just tell the Doc that you are done and do not wish to be called anymore. It is up to you. But, certainly, there is no reason to stay if you do not wish to.

Best of Luck

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