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Ending Therapy – A Grieving Process

The time has to come to end therapy. After thirteen years it’s not an easy decision and one that I’ve wrestled with for at least the past two. Ending a therapeutic relationship for some is relatively easy; a handshake, a few well wishes and off to experience life post-therapy with fresh eyes on an old world.

But what about some of us for whom parting with a therapist is like having your heart ripped out with a blunt spoon and although you can function more than adequately in the real world you now have to deal with a grieving process for which there are no books, no information and no-one to talk to.

The person you are grieving for is still alive and well and functioning, is only a phone call, a letter, a text-message or an email away. Also you can if you wish go back to therapy anytime you want to. It’s not like the person is no longer available ever.

So the strength of the situation lies in the ability to move on from a loving/kindness, almost perfect relationship and enter into one with less than perfect others and the real world.

No-one has ever measured up to my therapist – although my husband has come a close second. I’m now at University studying psychology and there are lecturers and tutors and people with the same qualities as my therapist. I’m doing very well at Uni and recently got a high distinction for an essay, part of which was on the association between academic success and emotional/social intelligence. I had a smile when I learned there is very little correlation between the two. I understand psychology but I don’t understand why I am finding it difficult to move on and live an authentic life post-therapy.

I’m afraid to leave her because I dread the grieving process which may go on for months if not years. I tried two years ago and lasted three months. Thank God a crisis occurred and I had a legitimate excuse to re-establish my relationship with her again.

This time I want to handle crises on my own. I’m strong enough and capable enough. I’m not the same person I was when I had my last baby, now almost fourteen. But I’m terrified she will forget me, that I will sink into historical oblivion and that she will scratch her head when she comes across my name in a few years time. I want to remain fresh and poignant in her memory banks as her very favourite client of all time. I know I hold the standing record for longevity, but that is not quite the same.

I know she will be pleased to see me go. Last time I told her I was leaving she had tears in her eyes. Joy I was mentally well and sadness I was going. It’s part of her job to eventually kick me out the door. It’s not part of her job to hang onto me and grieve for me. And that’s the bit I hate. I want her to grieve for me as much as I am grieving for her.

A happy client is a successful one. There can be no better feeling for a therapist than to see a client fly off the rim of the nest and never look back. I feel successful and at times I feel happy. My therapist will always be in my heart and my memories. And those I can visit at any time I want to.

Ending Therapy – A Grieving Process

Sonia Neale

Sonia Neale was recently awarded the Inaugural Barbara Hocking SANE Australia Fellowship to study and research Borderline Personality Disorder overseas in the USA, Canada, UK and Ireland. Her previous Psych Central blog was called Therapy Unplugged. She is the author of two books, The Bad Mother’s Revenge and Death by Teenager, both published by ABC Books/Harper Collins. She lives in Western Australia, is married with three adult children, has studied psychoanalytic psychotherapy, has a Certificate IV in Mental Health and is studying for a Psychology/Counselling degree. She currently works as a peer support worker in the mental health field.

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APA Reference
Neale, S. (2009). Ending Therapy – A Grieving Process. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 30, 2020, from


Last updated: 17 May 2009
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