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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings



Saying goodbye isn’t always easy. Regarding the therapeutic alliance (working relationship) established through mental health treatment and management, the process of ending services may come with beliefs which produce consequences (e.g., sorrow).


Even with my practice of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), which is facilitated solely through teletherapy, parting ways with people who’ve never met in person can produce this effect. Within the field of mental health, a successful end of the relationship between a client and psychotherapist is known as termination.


Although in the past I’ve experienced scenarios in which clients have ghosted (disappeared from) therapy, rage quit (left abruptly), or stopped the psychotherapeutic process via text or email, these arguably aren’t optimal or even healthy ways to end the therapeutic alliance.


Preferably, the process of termination is discussed and agreed upon prior to parting ways. In fact, at my first session with a new client, I express that the length of time for treatment or management varies by each individual.


Therefore, it may take one person only six to eight sessions in order to resolve a matter, though a separate individual may choose to retain services with me for a number of years. Also, regarding the informed consent documentation initially provided to each of my clients, I state in part:


Ending relationships can be difficult. Therefore, it is important to have a termination process in order to achieve some closure. The appropriate length of the termination depends on the length and intensity of the treatment. I may terminate treatment after appropriate discussion with you and initiate the termination process if I determine that psychotherapy is not being effectively used, or if you are in default on payment. I will not terminate the therapeutic relationship without first discussing and exploring the reasons and purpose of terminating. If therapy is terminated for any reason, or you request another therapist, I will provide you with a list of qualified psychotherapists to treat you. You may also choose someone on your own or from another referral source.


One important factor worth considering in regards to termination is whether or not a client’s interests and goals have been met. Interests relate to what a person wants to achieve. Goals are the means to an end – steps taken to achieve success.


For example, when coaching a client, a short-term goal such as the desire to transition out of an intimate partner relationship in a healthy manner may be expressed. The interest is the desire to break up and the goal represents steps toward successful dissolution of the romantic relationship.


Psychotherapist-led and client-led interruptions to treatment and management are also considered for termination. For instance, if I suspect that a client isn’t benefiting from REBT or other intervention strategies I employ, the ethical practice is to address a possibility of termination.


Likewise, if a client is dissatisfied with the mental health services I provide, we can discuss ending the therapeutic alliance. The crucial element regarding either of these interruption possibilities relates to open, honest, and vulnerable dialogue about possible termination.


Not uncommonly, matters related to abandonment can arise during the process of mental health care. This may occur with either the services provider or a client.


For example, if a client rage-quits therapy altogether, some clinicians may unhelpfully believe that the client carelessly disregarded the working relationship, as fear, anger, sorrow, or disgust may accompany this unproductive assumption. Yet, this isn’t abandonment.


Similarly, if a psychotherapist needs to sever the alliance due to a long-term injury or illness, some clients may unfavorably conclude that the clinician has disregarded them. However, this isn’t abandonment. To understand what abandonment is, consider what one source has to say:


Abandonment is a term that implies that the psychotherapist either ended the psychotherapy process in an inappropriate manner that does not adequately address the client’s ongoing treatment needs or the psychotherapist did not make necessary arrangements for the client’s treatment during the course of treatment.


Because goodbyes aren’t always easy, it’s understandable how a person may misunderstand what abandonment is and isn’t. This is why I address termination from the onset of treatment and management.


Together, clients and I can plan for an inevitable end to the therapeutic alliance. One significant lesson I hope to provide for my clients is how a healthy end to a relationship can look.


Taking this instruction from our work together, clients may then terminate non-psychotherapeutic relationships in a healthy manner (e.g., initiating the termination of one’s employment). Importantly, termination is a natural part of therapy.


Although one’s beliefs about ending what I hope is a purpose-driven and meaningful therapeutic relationship don’t necessarily produce a fun experience, termination – whether unhealthy (e.g., ghosting) or healthy (i.e., agreed upon by both parties) – is an inescapable component of therapy.


If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life—helping you to sharpen your critical thinking skills, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.


As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.


At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!



Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW




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