“Termination” is a phrase used to describe the final phase of therapy–where the therapist and client prepare to end therapy services. Therapists and clients may discuss topics such as how they feel about finishing therapy, what clients have learned about themselves since beginning therapy, and/or how clients plan to use the skills they’ve learned in therapy. The purpose of termination, first and foremost, is to provide closure. It allows an opportunity for both the client and therapist to assess and process what they accomplished during their time together and models healthy boundaries as well as a natural/appropriate end to a relationship. Termination also allows for the therapist to receive valuable feedback from their client in regard to how they can better serve future clients.
Ending a therapeutic relationship requires a great deal of thought, and it is something that is strategically done by your therapist to provide you and/or your child with an opportunity for continued personal growth. Much like a graduation, terminating therapeutic services can feel empowering and liberating and it is important to celebrate that. It is also important, since the therapeutic relationship is one that is intentionally and intimately formed, to be able to properly say goodbye. Whether you or your therapist initiates termination, attending a termination session can help your or your child integrate and process experiences and confidently face your next chapter in life.
Each therapist has unique ways of celebrating termination but, regardless of the specific intervention used, termination is an ideal time to integrate optimism, empowerment and a future-oriented approach in a commemorative way. Therapists can compassionately empathize with you or your child if either of you are reluctant to terminate while encouraging you to see the end of therapy as a new adventure. Some common termination techniques are listed below, so you can get an idea what one might expect, activity wise, from a termination session:
1) “Aloha” Lei Activity: Since “aloha” means both “hello” and “goodbye”, therapists and clients can process the notion that every end is the start of a new beginning and discuss client accomplishments between their own “hello” and “goodbye”. For this activity, paper flowers are cut out and decorated and each is assigned an effective coping skill, memorable moment, or notable takeaway form therapy. Next, the flowers are threaded along a string to create a lei. The lei can then be given to the client as a parting gift and reminder of the “aloha” metaphor.
2) Building Blocks: This activity can be utilized with clients of any age, much like the activity described above. During the final session, the client and therapist construct a tower out of available building materials–each block representing an effective coping skill, memorable moment, or notable takeaway from therapy. As the size of the tower grows, it may begin to lean and eventually fall. If this occurs, the therapist can then explain that the tower can be rebuilt using the client’s fundamental skills (the one’s they have assigned to each block). This activity helps prepare clients to have a positive outlook on potential “falls” they may experience upon the conclusion of therapy.
3) Goodbye Letter: There are multiple variations of this termination activity. Therapists might provide a letter template to their clients with prompts or fill-in-the-blank portions to be filled in or completed. They might also provide clients with a blank sheet of paper. The end goal is for clients to write a letter to themselves where they are able to reflect on their experience in therapy and look back on their experience as they progress into the future. Goodbye letters can also be written from client to therapist, therapist to client, or from an external perspective–there is a lot of creative freedom to be had with this termination activity!
It is best practice to conduct termination sessions face-to-face, though this might not always be possible. You might inquire with your therapist about additional options if, for some reason, you are not able to complete an in-person termination session. If continued treatment is needed, your therapist will provide you with appropriate referrals and point you in the right direction for additional services. We want you to feel confidant and empowered upon the completion of your time with us, so feel free to discuss your thoughts regarding termination for either yourself or your child with your therapist–we are always happy to answer any questions you have about the therapeutic process and what is considered best practice for you or your child!