Endings: Termination of therapy

Psychotherapy is a life-long, ongoing process for the client. The client feels the effect of therapy long after the sessions are over. It is a fact, that at some point, the therapist and client will part ways. Notwithstanding sudden disability or death of either party, the process of termination is a very important part of the client’s therapy.

Norcross, in the interview below, explains the process succinctly. Like him, I would consider termination a form of “graduation” for both therapist and client. The client attains new learnings about the self, and the therapist achieves an abundance of professional knowledge.

Norcross state the following steps for good termination:

  1. Proper preparation for termination.
  2. Reflection on the gains and consolidation of the gains.
  3. Processing of feelings about the therapists and client.
  4. Discussion on future functioning .
  5. Generalization of skills, etc. achieved.
  6. Anticipation of future growth.


Norcross reminds us that termination may not mean ending of the relationship. In fact the therapeutic relationship does not change. Termination or graduation means that a phase of the work is ended. It is not uncommon for clients to resume therapy with the same therapist when they reach a new phase, and when they feel that they need to reconnect with the previous therapist.

My experience is that when time is allowed for the process of termination, the process goes more in-depth. As a consequence, the client gains far more insight from the consolidation of learnings, and is able to take home a valuable resource that lasts a lifetime.