Should you stop therapy?
Therapy is expected to have a clear and definite ending.
If you abruptly stop your sessions, you might be left with unanswered questions and unprocessed feelings. On the other hand, stopping therapy as and when mutually agreed upon by you and your therapist can be a healthy, successful process.
Ending therapy, formally known as ‘termination’, gives you insight into how to deal with your emotions and allows you to discuss your progress and goals with your therapist by reviewing your new coping mechanisms.
How do you know when is the right time?
While there is no stipulated duration of time to be in therapy, for most people, there comes a point when they feel therapy no longer significantly contributes to their mental well-being. A positive sign that it’s time to end therapy is if you feel you can tick off the goals you had in mind while starting therapy.
In less ideal scenarios, you might feel like you have hit a wall, and your progress seems to have plateaued. This might be a sign for you to change your therapist or seek other modes of treatment instead of stopping therapy altogether.
Signs indicating when should you stop therapy
You have met your goals
You usually have certain goals or objectives in mind when you begin therapy. You should communicate these goals to your therapist in the beginning, so they have a sense of what you expect from the sessions. These could be as simple as wanting to be happier or something more specific, like reducing your anxiety.
Either way, these goals allow you to stay on track with your progress over the sessions. However, just checking off the goals isn’t a sufficient reason to stop seeking therapy. Your own perception of progress and satisfaction is the determining factor.
You can effectively use coping strategies
Another deciding factor is whether you can effectively utilise the coping strategies you picked up in therapy when experiencing negative feelings or behaviours. Coping strategies are some common tools that all patients considering termination should be familiar with.
For instance, the ability to identify maladaptive cognitions (biased or inaccurate thoughts about yourself and your abilities) is very important. So is being able to reframe your thought processes to prevent negative spirals of thought.
You are practising self care
Simply working towards your goals and getting tangible benefits isn’t enough reason to end therapy. You also need to prioritise your mental health on your own.
This essentially means that people tend to depend on the therapist to take care of their mental health. They start treating therapy as a requisite to a clear state of mind instead of perceiving them as a means to an end. As soon as therapy stops, they risk returning to their older ways of thinking simply because they never applied the strategies in real time.
Therefore, if you want to stop therapy, check if you are equipped to put yourself first without your therapist's nudge and not feel guilty about it.
You begin to find the sessions repetitive
There might come a point in your journey where you begin feeling you have nothing left to talk about with your therapist.
This could be indicated by the course of conversation shifting towards a normal ‘chit-chat’ or checking in one rather than you discussing certain problems that continue triggering you. Moreover, you might begin finding certain aspects of your conversation repetitive just because you have already reached most of all the goals you had in mind while starting.
If all these factors remain consistent, you must communicate your thoughts to the therapist and take their opinion on termination.
Word of caution
While the signs mentioned above can act as useful markers to determine when to stop therapy, they are not definitive. All things considered, you should only consider stopping therapy when you feel prepared from within, and your therapist supports the idea.
Moreover, ending therapy doesn’t have to be irrevocable. You can always resume therapy if you feel the triggers you had gotten rid of continue to exert some influence over you, or you are unable to use the coping strategies effectively. Hence, keep an open mind to going back.