Termination is something the Terminator does to annoying people who irritate him. Termination, as in terminating therapy, for me sounds as though I am planning my own funeral. Ending therapy sounds better and completing therapy sounds perfectly natural, feels enormously egalitarian and realistically authentic; as though I have achieved a desired goal rather than dying or having a relationship die an untimely, unnatural death. Words have power and meaning and create much feelings and emotions. So we need to choose our words carefully.
Something my first therapist didn’t do. He asked me if I was breast or bottle fed and I thought he was coming on to me so I never went back. My second therapist told me there were people worse off than me and my third therapist literally terminated me, after eight sessions, declaring me cured (?) and I was told in no uncertain terms, Hasta La Vista, Baby. I later heard she had a nervous breakdown and terminated her career as a therapist.
After thirteen years I am separating from my fourth therapist. Although we were not married or living together, I felt merged and enmeshed with her. She lived permanently inside my head and was my constant companion where I would silently talk, argue, resolve, reflect and ponder over many issues, ideas, aims, intentions and problems. I always tried to see the world through her loving/kindness and all-encompassing, all-accepting, child-like, wonder-filled viewpoint where everyday is a brand new experience to be explored, shared and cherished.
I grew up in her room feeling unconditionally loved and accepted. This is where I learned emotional regulation and the importance of long-term relationships with all its ups, downs and vagaries with a substitute mother who gave me the instruments and abilities to leave home and forge my own future, making my own choices based on how I react mindfully to what happens around me. I am now solely in charge of my own destiny. I’m migrating to another country. I’m moving into a new era. It’s not a tragic ending so much as an inspirationally arousing new beginning with my husband, my children, my extended family, my friends, the world and life in general.
It is interesting to note, and this is why the time is right to spread my wings and fly, that I no longer feel as though she is my only soul-mate. We have lots in common and many differences. While I’m now studying to be a psychologist like herself, I feel this is her lasting legacy and vital connection she has bequeathed me rather than the unrequited love, longing and sadness I used to feel. I’ve matured and embraced her qualities more than I’ve clung onto her as a potential future friend, something I did in the past which left me feeling empty and lonely. I now need to forge my own uncertain future with the essence of her within me. It’s a scary feeling, rather like a bungee jump. You see imminent risks and dangers with the unknown, but are eager to jump into the chasm with your safety harness attached and face your destiny alone.
Therapy was my safety net. But I am now my own safety net. I need to move on to reach my true potential, something I cannot do when I run to her for approval all the time. I now give myself all the approval I need and this is rather exciting and I am full of anticipation, but I’m also surrounded and suffused with much sadness and grief. After well over a decade in therapy, completing the process and moving on will produce tears, sadness and some wrenching emotions – and not just from me. My Hakomi trained body-centred clinical-psychologist therapist will be most wistful at seeing me go. That I do know. John Grohol stated in “Termination: Ten Tips When Ending Therapy”, “You also have to try to separate out the feelings of “I’m not ready to do this” vs. “This is making me very anxious, but it feels like it’s the right time.”
This is very anxiety-producing but feels so right. Last time, three years ago, I ended therapy, but I did it on impulse halfway through a session. I lasted three months before I invented a crisis so I could see her again. I really wanted to move on but I wasn’t ready. This time we are doing it formally with transference/counter-transference reviews, lessons learned when therapy went bad, summaries of rectified incidents, reflections of my achievements, nostalgia of funny moments, appreciation of ambitions met and visions of goals yet to materialize. For me there will be regrets and poignancy. But it’s a process I have to go through for effective and permanent closure.
I’ve never formally ended a relationship before. Most of them in the past have ended disastrously so I want to get this one right. Previously I would literally kill a relationship with a blast of vitriol so poisonous the other person would have no choice but to end the friendship. I’ve done that to my therapist more than once, in the name of completing therapy, and she gently lured me back into the fold with much love and patience for which I am eternally grateful. Although I hurt her deeply, she always understood my behaviour wasn’t about her.
I don’t think a day will go past when I won’t think of her for the rest of my life. And I don’t think a day will go past when I will be wondering if she will ever think of me. Or maybe I will. Irvin Yalom, great existentialist, psychotherapist and author often wonders if his therapist still thinks of him. My beloved therapist is also a therapee and I’m reasonably confident she wonders if her therapists ever think about her.
And you know what? I think most decent, caring, well-attuned therapists wonder what happens to their clients. They need closure too.
But never say never. Life can throw up some real biggies post-therapy – death, divorce, loss of a job or redundancy, moving house etc and that may be when I need to temporarily reconnect with a familiar professional face whom I trust implicitly.
So perhaps, in the famous words of Arnold Schwarzenegger, “I’ll be back!” Maybe, that is!
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From Psych Central's website:
PsychCentral (May 28, 2009)
Last reviewed: 28 May 2009