Ending Services with Your Counselor? The Importance of Proper Termination

When it comes to terminating services with their counselor, people tend to go about this via email. Email seems to be the most popular form of communication these days when contacting someone about professional services, so it seems like it would be appropriate for ending services.

While email is an easy way to terminate, it’s not the proper way, and this article will tell you why. Avoid confusion, having loose ends in your care, and any other issues by terminating appropriately. It is a process and a part of therapy.

How to terminate

Counselors probably cover this in their initial paperwork and bring it back up when it’s time to end services. The way to appropriately terminate mental health services is by having a conversation about it with your counselor.

People tend to try to avoid having this difficult conversation because they want to avoid the emotions that come up with knowing that they’re not going to be meeting with their counselor anymore.

Emotions that people may be trying to avoid are similar to that bittersweet ending or the sense of closing a chapter (depending on if the person met regularly for a long period of time with their counselor).

People may even experience some feelings of sadness or uncertainty of saying goodbye because they shared their story openly with their counselor, having a positive relationship. Saying goodbye is tough for some people.

Other emotions might be stress-related, feeling uncomfortable or awkward. Whatever emotion comes up for someone, I’m sure another person has experienced it, as well.

Some people will terminate services via email simply because they just think that is the way to do so.

More on the importance and how

  • Use the wrap up session(s) to process your journey and acknowledge, better yet, celebrate the progress towards your goals. Wrap up session(s) may be one to three sessions, depending on your counselor and what is appropriate for you.
  • When deciding to end a service, one should take into consideration that they aren’t ending just a service. They’re ending a therapeutic relationship. Wrap up with your counselor, tie any loose ends, and take time to say goodbye. The goodbye can be symbolic and therapeutic, itself.
  • Discuss with your counselor whether ending services is appropriate for you. Sometimes, people leave services against medical advice, which could be damaging to themselves. When mental health services are ended too soon, it isn’t as effective because it wasn’t at least wrapped up, without loose ends.
    • The treatment plan, assessments, and your goals are good guides to gage progress and to know the timing of ending services. Have a conversation with your counselor if you feel concerned or have questions about any of these.
  • Not appropriately ending services affects the counselor, as well. It needs to be clear to the counselor if they’re going to hear from their client again. The counselor has the responsibility of finishing up their paperwork and moving the client into an “inactive” status. If the client is unclear in their email about ending services, then the situation is unclear for the counselor. They will likely try to contact you for clarity.
  • The counselor is a person who genuinely cared, formed an alliance with you, cheered for you, empathized with you during the lows, and worked outside of your session time for your well-being. Honestly, to some counselors, receiving an email abruptly ending services, seemingly out of nowhere, from someone feels a little hurtful. The counselor is a professional and the likelihood of this happening comes with the job, but they’re also a person who has to prepare and process ending the relationship just like you do.
    • Counselors like getting to work with you. Professional boundaries can still be maintained and the counselor can still feel the way they do when saying goodbye to one person and moving on to help another. Counselors are human.
  • The counselor would probably like to get a chance to say some encouraging words, celebrate your accomplishments, and wish you all the best.
  • When your counselor emails you inquiring about wrap-up sessions, they’re doing this for multiple reasons. There are people who think that their counselor is trying to keep them, but this is not true. It’s because the process need to be done the right way.
  • Utilize wrap-up sessions to get more resources or referrals to other beneficial services.

Consider wrapping up by meeting with your counselor a few more times vs ending with an abrupt email. The benefits of proper termination are great. Termination is a process, one that should be carried through with. Oftentimes, people feel glad they did.

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