The Therapeutic Process
Therapy is a safe space where you can freely explore your concerns without judgement, with a therapist guiding you. Slowly but surely, mental well-being is gaining its rightful place in our lives. People are more aware of the value of taking care of their mental health and seeking support at the right time.
Multiple resources can help you identify the signs you need to seek therapy (P.S. - Therapy is for everyone. Thinking about trying it out is reason enough!). However, there is a lack of resources to help us understand how long we should go to therapy.
Therapy must end at some point in time, and that is something both you and your therapist know. But when should therapy end? Are there any signs that you’ve accomplished your goals in therapy? Is it bad to be in therapy for 'too long'? Let’s find out!
Why Is It Important to Terminate Therapy?
The goal of therapy is to prepare you for its termination.
Therapy begins with fostering the skills you need to cope with your stressors without the support of your therapist. A therapy plan with no termination in sight can often end up running off-course. Knowing that therapy has to come to an end after a period of time helps prepare both you and your therapist to focus on the core goals.
Some modes of therapy indeed require more sessions than others (such as psychoanalysis). Plus, the severity of your concerns also determines the number of sessions needed. However, in the first couple of sessions, every therapist generally discusses a tentative termination date, be it 3 months, 6 months, or even a year. Next, they create a plan of action about the issues both of you would focus on.
Not having a clear end in sight can also lead you to lose motivation, and sessions may start feeling unproductive and pointless. You may even start feeling dependent on your therapist rather than using therapy as a space for developing independent decision-making skills.
Thus, in a way, knowing that the therapeutic relationship has to end after a point acts as a motivator for the client and therapist to be fully present and active in every session.
How Do You Know It’s Time to Terminate Therapy?
The average number of sessions before therapy is terminated and the signs that can help you know that it’s time to end therapy differ from person to person.
For some, it happens in phases. You may start with a session a week (or perhaps even multiple times a week) and scale down to a few sessions a month or even lesser before stopping therapy altogether. Such a 'maintenance phase' works well for people who just want to come in every now and then to discuss their overall progress or are somewhat anxious about the idea of completely stopping therapy.
Certain signs that can help you know that it’s time to end or maybe reduce the frequency of your therapy sessions are:
- Your mental health is better than it was.
- Things that used to trigger you feel more manageable now.
- Whatever you came to therapy for, be it anxiety, stress, or depression, feels more in your control.
- You’ve figured out how to feel comfortable relying on your loved ones in a healthy manner. You have identified various support systems for yourself.
- You can implement the skills you’ve learned in therapy and they seem to be working for you.
- Your relationships have improved. You can set healthy boundaries and communicate better.
It is important to remember that mild to moderate symptoms might require a few months of therapy to show improvement, while a history of complex trauma or severe mental health conditions may take years of therapy to see any visible progress.
Furthermore, processing unresolved issues that happened in the past may require fewer sessions than working through traumatic experiences that are happening at present or any ongoing struggles that you may be going through.
Who Initiates the Conversation?
Usually, your therapist initiates the conversation to end therapy. They may inform you a couple of sessions in advance that you’ve almost reached the end of therapy. This conversation can involve a discussion of your progress so far, your therapist asking you about the changes you’ve been able to notice in yourself and your behaviour, and whether or not you feel satisfied with your progress. Depending on your discussion, you may both decide to end therapy at the designated time or extend it further.
However, remember that therapy is a voluntary process, and you can choose to end it anytime you wish. If you feel you’re ready to start using all the skills you’ve acquired during therapy, your symptoms and presenting concerns are in control, or you simply don’t feel the need to continue with therapy anymore, you can always initiate the conversation to terminate therapy yourself. The final decision is always yours.
We understand that starting therapy or finding a reliable therapist can be daunting, and we are here to make it easier for you! If you want to try therapy, Rocket Health’s services can help you connect with an experienced therapist from the comfort of your home. All you need to do is click the button below!