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Saying Goodbye: The Importance of Termination in Therapy

therapy couch

When it comes time to end a therapy with a client, also known as termination, clients are often surprised at my emphasis on its importance. People sometimes feel that once they have made the decision to end the service, whether it be because of moving, sensing that you need a break from the work, or feeling that your therapist just isn’t the right match, that there isn’t much of a need to meet again.

I look at the work between a client and therapist as a relationship, and having the chance to communicate, connect, and say goodbye is often a healthy and important part to ending any relationship in life. Therapists are people, and just as our clients feel connected to us, we feel connected to them as well. Below are some points that highlight both the benefits and the importance of having a termination session with your therapist:

Identifying progress and areas for growth

Typically a portion of the termination session will include identifying areas in which a client has demonstrated positive change, and identifying areas where the client is still hoping to grow. Since change typically takes place gradually over time it can be hard to see or remember the progress that we’ve made over the course of therapy. Our goals for therapy can also shift over time as circumstances change and we change. Having a concrete discussion about the goals you set when you came into therapy and what some of your goals are moving forward can be helpful in any future work you’re hoping to do, whether it be with a new therapist or on your own individual journey towards growth.

Practicing communication skills and voicing your needs

Engaging in a discussion about why you’re terminating with a therapist can be an intimidating conversation, especially if you are choosing to leave because you felt that you had a need that wasn’t being met or you were being misunderstood. Sharing this information with your therapist in person, despite its difficulty, is an excellent way to practice communicating our experiences and our needs. Believe it or not, this is also exactly the kind of information therapists want to hear. Typically clinicians are always pushing themselves to grow and learn, and having the chance to receive feedback from a client on their work with them is instrumental in this process of continued growth on their part as well.

Saying goodbye and getting closure

Regardless of the reason for moving on from a therapist, having a termination session is an important part of getting closure with them. A therapist and client’s work together is centered around healing and connecting to one another, and having the opportunity to say goodbye is an important piece of ending almost any relationship. Although saying goodbye is often difficult, it can also be an incredibly cathartic and healing experience.

Samantha Waldman (she/her) is a NYC-based psychotherapist and a Bridges Co-Founder. One of her passions in her work and education has been exploring biracial or multiracial identity, multiethnic identity, transracial adoption, and Asian-diaspora identity. Samantha was trained at Teachers College, Columbia University, and currently works as a member of the Intuitive Healing Psychotherapy team and