Grieving the End of a Therapy Relationship
Dear Lost & Lonely,
First I want to acknowledge how deeply hurt you have been by the sudden end to what was a very meaningful relationship. Very understandably, you are grieving this loss. I believe that much of the healing and change that occurs in psychotherapy comes directly from the relationship that develops between the therapist and the client. Ideally, the end of psychotherapy is marked with a phase of the work that is devoted specifically to termination. This is a time to explore the very real and complicated emotions that develop around the ending of a very unique and powerful relationship and make peace with its conclusion. It sounds like this work was beginning, as you mentioned having two sessions after the change in your therapist’s position was announced. You also mention that a final session was scheduled, but ultimately canceled and never rescheduled. To me, this suggests the possibility that the termination process was interrupted, and therefore, not worked through completely. Even if it had been completed, I’m sure it would still be very difficult for you, but I wonder if a final session might have allowed you a sense of closure. Unfortunately, the final session did not occur and asking for it now, might be impossible within the structure of the clinic; not to mention, that at this point, it could do more harm than good by allowing you to reenter the relationship, only to have it taken away again. So where do you go from here?
First I would suggest working with your current therapist on the very real and legitimate feelings of grief and loss you are experiencing around the end of your work with your former therapist. Working with clients on their feelings of loss of a previous therapist can be challenging, as it may cause therapists to question their own value to the client. However, experienced and well trained therapists will be able to view this as an opportunity to help a client through a painful loss and also as a means of exploring what was and wasn’t helpful in the previous therapeutic relationship. Although, I believe this will be an important part of your healing, I would caution you not to allow this to become the central focus of therapy for the long term, as it might result in avoiding the issues that brought you to therapy in the first place. This may be more comfortable in the short term, but it won’t allow for the rich growth that can come from therapy in the long term.
I would also encourage you to openly explore, both in therapy and independently, the idea of becoming friends with your therapist. As mentioned above, the therapeutic relationship is a very unique one. Part of its uniqueness is rooted in the fact that it is almost exclusively focused on one person – the client. Even in therapeutic modalities that draw strength from the humanness of the therapist and from the relationship between therapist and client, often the majority of what is revealed about the therapist is how he/she experiences the client. This contributes to a significant imbalance of power in the relationship, which therefore, leads to questions about whether or not a true and equitable friendship could ever really occur.
The power imbalance that occurs in therapy between the therapist and the client is something therapists often don’t like to acknowledge. Most therapists don’t see themselves as authority figures – we are helpers and most of us probably see ourselves as partnering with clients on their journey, not as authority figures. However we want to view ourselves, we are the professionals with the training and expertise in psychotherapy and this makes us the authority figure in the relationship. Clients often present for therapy at a point in time when they are overcome with pain and suffering. As they enter into the therapeutic relationship and feel connected to a professional who is empathic and non-judgmental, they feel understood and cared for on a deep level, sometimes for the first time. They also believe that their therapists can help them in a way that no one else has been able to. Certainly this gives a tremendous amount of power to therapists and leads clients to idealize them and, in rare cases, view them as almost God-like.
It is important to acknowledge that at the end of the day, therapists are just regular people – people who have flaws and bad habits; people who argue with their partners; people who have difficult family relationships. The way you see your therapist in sessions is quite likely his/her very best self and let’s face it no one can be their very best self all the time. So, if you did become friends with your therapist, you would get them as a full and complete person – the good and the bad. Consider what that would be like. You might argue with one another, you might learn things about her that you hate, you might have very little in common.
Finally, a more practical piece of the puzzle comes to mind that I feel I would be remiss without addressing. I wonder if it is making it more difficult to move past this loss because you are going to the same clinic (and even bumping into your former therapist from time to time) where you worked with your former therapist for so many years. I don’t know how long you have been working with your current therapist, or how you feel about the work you two are doing. I also don’t know what the resources are in the community where you live, but it might be worth exploring a change of venue. Before making any decisions on this, engage in an open exploration of this with your therapist.
Thank you for writing and I hope you experience some peace and healing around this loss in the not too distant future.
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Corrinda EstesJune 19th, 2012 at 3:11 PM
I would suggest moving on to another Therapy group. The existing one just seems too tied to your old self and group. Through this the new therapists will hopefully get you to a place that feels warm and cozy.
To me it sounds like losing a boyfriend or a husband. These are the same feelings of loss.
James "Jimmy" BJuly 2nd, 2012 at 8:00 PM
I think itis a natural response that you are feeling. Grieving for a relationship that in many respects goes deeper than most will ever know for a husband or wife has to be tough. I can only imagine that not having that relationship could drive you to a total feeling of longing.
If you don’t get a response I would go to another therapy facility. You can’t keep opening the wound by going to the therapy office and knowing that you used to have such a great helping relationship there.
John DoeJanuary 11th, 2015 at 6:10 PM
I went through the exact same sadness once my therapist found a new job in NY and gave me a 1 month notice. I did not realize even with the 1 month notice, just how sad I would feel once our last session was over. It wasn’t until I walked out the door, went home, did I realize I would never see my therapist again. I must cried in agony for hours and hours. I finally called my therapist the next day, I told her how sad I was. There was nothing I could do, nothing she could do. All I can tell you is had I known how much pain I would feel, I would have never signed up for therapy. I worried so much about my therapist, I was so scared because she was moving to Brooklyn, I had no idea if she would find a job, would she be safe, I felt like a worried mom. About 7 months later, I looked her up and then found that she was gainfully employed. I was so relived, so happy. I finally felt closure knowing she was now safe and not jobless. Whatever you do, just know the sadness you feel is normal.
DianneFebruary 23rd, 2015 at 7:44 AM
I have had a bad ending to a therapist. WE had been doing ego state work EMDR for about 100 session. On my last appointment on 1/15/2015 I felt very disrespected. This was the day after the anniversary of a PTS event. My therapist took a phone call while I was talking. It was not an important call, she told the caller she was in session and would try to call her after I left and before her next client arrived. The therapist resumed listening to me, we did ego state work of my 11 year old self, my age at the time of the Post Traumatic Event. I felt in a hurry, did not resolve what needed to be resolved and when I left she told me I would need to drink a lot of water. I was crying on the inside. I did not feel heard, seen or accepted. The next night I had a nightmare. In the nightmare my therapist was trying to drown me in the very spot I had previously told her was in my plan to end my own life. She was in the water pushing and pulling me under while saying “she was going to take me down”. Three times I fought my way to the surface to validate that it was here, that what I was hearing her say was real and to see this look of revenge on her face. Two days later I wrote a note to her, dropped it at the office. I told her I was having a difficult time tuning the nightmare out. I said If i waiting until my next appointment I might decide not to talk about it, or even return to therapy. I told her I felt extremely scattered since last weeks appointment. I said as unsettling and frightening as this is to me, I may be unwilling to bring it up at my next session: a. minimize its impact on me by then, discount my feelings, reaction to it. b. built up too big in my mind, too scary to talk about in person, c. fear of abandonement/rejection by therapist, d. fear of creating a problem where one did not exist before.
At the end of the next day my therapist left me a phone message that she received my note, her schedule was full, but I could call to see if she had any cancellations. This message spoke volumes to me. I have a very difficult time making personal phone calls. A tornado of anxiety swells up in side of me, my heart pounds, I get diarreah, vomit and pass out. The fact that she was so insensitive to this after all the time we have spent together really hurt me. The next night after 10 p.m. I called to leave a message on the answering machine to cancel my appoiintments. The therapist called to see if I had really cancelled. I told her yes. I did not feel safe. She thought I should come in and talk about it. I asked her what would that look like. She said I was protecting myself, she said I was significantly challenged and this was my response. She said she was sorry I was suffering, she wanted to make that less so. I told her I don’t feel received, accepted, loved and heard. She told me she was sorry to see me go. She wanted to help me transition. She would call me with names of other therapists. She told me she would do what ever she could to help and i was welcome to come back at anytime. This happened 4 weeks ago. I have not heard from her since. I feel very sad. I thought we had a good relationship and I thought I was telling my truth about the nightmare and its effect on my. I was being honest about not feeling, seen, heard or accepted. I am confused if she really planned to help me why has she not called. She has been in the office the entire month. My feelings of disppointment are weighing heavy on my mind. I needed further connection on the 15th when I left her office, but I did not know how to ask for that. i feel a huge disconnect. This seems complex and confusing. I have left myself with another dangling, shameful relationship. This part of my life seems hopeless.
looMarch 19th, 2015 at 7:48 PM
The therapist called you several times to either refer you to someone else or to come back if needed. They can’t hound you to come back. Its really always in your hands to go or not.
DianeMarch 21st, 2015 at 6:13 PM
The therapist said she would call me, however it has been more than 8 weeks and she has not contacted me yet.
MirandaMay 20th, 2015 at 9:10 AM
My therapist retired after a 20 yr relationship with her. it has been terribly painful and so depressing. I just can’t get over feeling abandoned tho we left on good terms and I an text her. the thought I cant see her any longer or talk to her by phone is devastating.
ShayAugust 1st, 2015 at 7:21 PM
Recently I got offered a new job and I really wanted it. So I accepted and then I found out that I would be working on the same floor as my therapist. We don’t work together at all we are in two different departments and I generally only see her when arriving at work or leaving work. She has terminated our therapy relationship because she feels like it is a conflict for us to be on the same floor. If I had known the job was on the same floor I would not have accepted it, I would not have even interviewed for it. Now I don’t have a therapist she is referring me to someone else but I feel weird going back to the office. I also feel weird going to work. I didn’t know that it would hurt so bad to lose her and now I’m really depressed and crying, angry and confused. She says she considers me a friend because I have been with her for over 4 years and that we can still be friends just in a different way and it will take time. But I find myself not ever wanting to see her or talk to her or anyone else ever again.
TonieSeptember 24th, 2019 at 6:00 AM
Aww no… She did the right thing and now you can be friends. I really hope you became friends. She had to make a choice and its not always easy, she didnt mean to make you feel rejected as a therapist but accepted as a friend instead…
AlexandraOctober 9th, 2015 at 1:39 PM
I am deeply touched by the original letter written about the pain of ending therapy – and I am even more deeply touched by the therapist who has written in to suggest how to cope with these changes (and the rationale for these suggestions). I have just had my therapist end our therapeutic relationship, after nearly a decade, and I am feeling devastated at times inside. We had a good ending, over several sessions of processing. But the loss I feel, and the loss of support, is upsetting. I find myself wondering: do I invest in more therapy? Why? Why should I? What is wrong with me to feel the need to go to therapy? I am confused about the whole process of therapy suddenly, and I am not a thoughtless person. I find myself wondering: am I going to feel wounded forever? I feel deeply sad and just don’t know what to do. Are there thousands of us out there suffering in this way? There seems to be. :(
DianneJanuary 11th, 2016 at 2:36 PM
Hope you are feeling more comfortable than when you first wrote your post. I’ve found therapy to be helpful when I need it. The years when I am functioning and maintaining well on my own are great, but when I’ve experienced a major change I have felt comfortable going back to get help gaining new insight. Therapy, like life, is a process. Sometimes a tune up (reconnecting with some impartial person, to see where I have been, the progress I’ve made and where I am currently headed) is useful to me on my journey of remaining as healthy as possible. Wishing you well on your journey.
DianeOctober 10th, 2015 at 7:30 AM
Hi this is Dianne, my original post was on Feb. 23, 2015. I am feeling and doing the best I have in years. Recently people have been commenting on how happy and healthy I look. My change of therapists was a Godsend. I sat at my keyboard for a weekend (in February) wrote out 20 pages ( started with the birth family) I wrote a timeline of the significant events and people in my life. Brought my manuscript with me to my first appointment with my new therapist. She had scheduled me for two hours, she read my story out loud. Many times she stopped to comment, further clarify or gasp. The last page and one half was about Laura, my previous therapist. By writing I was able to be clear about what I needed someone to hear and know about me, before they committed to being my therapist. Kay, my new therapist was extremely greatful for my honesty and clarity. I started with weekly sessions for a few months, now see her every other week or sometimes every three weeks. Kay is extremely supportive, I feel heard, she is never disrespectful. Laura, my old therapist would compare what I was going thru with what her other clients were and would say she could not figure out why it was taking me a lot longer than others. My new therapist never compares my progress to anyone else. Kay, says in her 36 years of being a therapist she has never worked with a person who has experienced so much trauma and is living a life that is as healthy and well balanced as I do.
My only regret is not recognizing I did not deserve the cold, distant, humiliating treatment that I experienced from Laura for two years, before I finally knew to my core that I would never get well with her councelling. It has been 10 months, and you may have guessed, Laura the therapist ( in January 2015 she promised to call me soon, and would do everything in her power to get me set up with a new therapist) has not yet called me with the name of a therapist to refer me to. I did see her once, she abruptly turned and walked the other way.
Changing to a compassionate therapist, who genuinely understands me is wonderful. She has given me her phone number and email, so I can text or email her if I have a problem in between sessions. So far I have never needed to contact her, but just knowing I have that option feels great!
AlexandraOctober 13th, 2015 at 9:34 PM
I really appreciate you sharing the post ending beginning. I’ve reached out to another therapist as well to at least discuss the nature of this grief, and she reminded me that every ending is different – perhaps more different than I would have anticipated. Some dual relationships may grow out of the ending – where eventually there is contact between therapist and client, in small ways, which may take the anxiety out of the ending, but not be a lingering, obsessive attachment that is – key words here – ‘unhealthy for the client’. Or presumably for the therapist who may simply want to scale back a practice, too, or who may have determined that they could no longer be effective or were no longer effective for a client. There ARE two people in relationship here, after all. I am mulling seeing another therapist to process this sadness and grief. I’m also just sitting with it. I have tried to reach out to my former therapist to at least reassure myself that this person is not dead – and there’s been no email response. That – I find hard. I respect it, but I find it painful. Obviously, I need to take care of me. So, I’ll think about whether that may require a new therapist for a short or longer term. Thanks again for sharing.
WendyNovember 20th, 2015 at 10:17 PM
My therapist is unsure whether she’ll be returning to her practice after a serious health crisis. I haven’t heard from her since June. When I went to my appointment last July, and waited, and she never came. I left messages on her phone and texted her. Nobody ever contacted me, it was very scary and awkward and I was terrified that she had died. I felt so abandoned, so left in the dark, with no information about what happened. It took me two weeks to get the courage to go back to the office, where I found information attached to her door that was not there when I’d gone for my appointment. There was a note saying she’d had a medical emergency and didn’t know when she’d return. Names of some other therapists were on the note, in case clients wanted to contact them. I tried right away and got through to one who didn’t or couldn’t tell me any information. Later, I got a call back from one I’d left a message for, and found out a little information regarding the health condition of my therapist. It was devastating. I sent a card to wish her healing and left another message or two on her voicemail, but don’t know if she ever got any of them. Over the summer I started temporarily seeing one of the others in the building, but I feel a little like a charity case as it is temporary since this one does not take my insurance and is just taking a small payment for now. Even she has found out very little. So ironic, that my therapist had helped me through many traumatic losses in recent years, and she’s not there to help with this loss…she is the loss. I really don’t know what I’m going to do if she cannot return. I get nervous and shake every time I get to the building. I keep thinking some other horrible news will be there. This is a huge loss and I’m having trouble adjusting even though I’m trying to find another therapist in case she doesn’t return. Nobody else knows my years of history and I just don’t have it in me to start over. It helps to see what others have experienced and what they are going through. “Unhealthy for the client” – those words ring true for me. I have been worried sick about her health and recovery, and worried for myself with this additional loss, as I’m afraid to be hopeful anymore that she will ever return. She’s going to decide in January, according to the last information they got in her office building. Best wishes to all going through the loss of their therapist.
DianneNovember 21st, 2015 at 3:53 PM
Wendy, I am sorry to hear all that you have been through. The thought of looking for a new therapist is daunting. I wrote (for most of a weekend) about twenty pages of background info that I wanted my new therapist to know before agreeing to see me. Just in case I had to go to more than one to find a good match. The second therapist that I interviewed and allowed to read my twenty page manuscript was a good fit for me.
geroirelandDecember 18th, 2015 at 5:14 PM
going through a grieving process also having finished with my therapist. I only saw her short term and am finding this hard. I have no contact at all and I am not being given a chance to talk it through with her. As soul destroying as this is I have to live with it. It has been like I’ve been winded with sadness for weeks. take care and good luck to anyone going through similar
Kay WJanuary 8th, 2016 at 3:12 PM
Hello all. I know this is an old post, but I wanted to share my therapy story here. So, after going through a difficult marriage, suffering divorce, and ending up living back with my mother I felt isolated and lost. I went to a mental health clinic to seek help working through this loss and shame. I was assigned a student therapist who I worked very well with for 3.5 years. We were a good match I feel, but our relationship became very emotionally close. I grew a dependency for him. He was my rock. He was like a father, big brother, a friend, and sometimes even a (husband) in a sense. He at times told me I was more than a client, so the feeling was mutual. Obviously this was unhealthy therapeutically and I tried several times to try to work through it with him. He eventually got better supervision and corrected his urges to treat me as a “friend” or “little sister”. This transition was hard for me to accept and I simply could not view him as my therapist.
I had also been seeing another therapist as required after having bariatric surgery to help with weight management. I told her about my therapeutic relationship with my therapist and about how it was starting to depress me. She recommended I switch therapist no matter how hard it felt.
Long story short: I just ended my relationship with my therapist on 1/7/2016. I have just found a new therapist who I have only seen once so far and cannot comment on if we are a match or not. I have a knot in my belly and my heart aches. I have been longing for my former therapist since ending it with him a day ago. I am hoping with time that I will be able to regain composure and finish working through my problems. The agony of losing contact after having access to support for so long is proving challenging, so I relate with everyone here. My story unlike others is “me” terminating the therapeutic relationship due to conflict of interest as oppose to the therapist terminating for various reasons.
I wish everyone happy healing!
DianneJanuary 8th, 2016 at 8:39 PM
Sorry to hear that your therapist did not maintain professional and strong boundaries with you. I wish you much better luck with your new therapist. I genuinely hope you find a healthy one who can assist you in getting stronger and having healthier relationships. I am glad you have moved on…please keep yourself busy as you transition to a healthier, more stable you!
KayJanuary 9th, 2016 at 2:59 PM
I am very much trying to find some activities to keep me busy. Been signing up for academic classes hoping it will expose me to other more appropriate relationships. I am hoping this will ease the pain, but since the termination is fresh I am having daily crying spells.
Spending time with family right now.
DianneJanuary 9th, 2016 at 8:05 PM
Happy to hear you are taking good care of yourself. My son has been home for a few days, he fly’s back tomorrow. Having him home is great, but he won’t get vacation until next year again, so the unknowns of when we will see each other again is difficult. I am home bound for a few more weeks due to back surgery. I have a good book to start tomorrow when he leaves and some contact with friends this next week too. Missing someone is difficult. Life has difficult days as well as really terrific days. I wish you well on your journey.
geroirelandJanuary 8th, 2016 at 7:08 PM
that was a very brave thing to do….I was only 6 sessions with my councillor…you were 3.5 years, must be tough, you will get through it though !
KayJanuary 9th, 2016 at 2:56 PM
Thank you for your kind words. Yes, it is very tough. I am glad we can all support each other here.
geroirelandJanuary 11th, 2016 at 11:34 AM
thats no problem.
I’m going to see a psychiatrist tomorrow to see what she says about this missing of my therapist.
I want to see if she has anything different to say or give closure in some way for me. I’ll let you know what she says.
GeroirelandJanuary 17th, 2016 at 8:01 AM
I spoke with a psychiatrist. She was very unsympathetic. She made me feel like some sort of pervert. I texted my ex councillor (the girl I miss so much)twice to apologise to her for asking g get to stay in touch and I’m being made out to be a lunatic. I really hope my ex councillor never felt upset or worried. I’ll never know. It is beyond crushing.:/
KayJanuary 18th, 2016 at 8:15 AM
That Psychiatrist seemed more than unsympathetic. A mental health professional should never make a client feel as if they aren’t entitled to their feelings.
I can relate with the feeling of longing and reaching out to your ex-therapist. I reached out to mine too since he said it was okay to keep contact, but now he ignores me and it is quite depressing.
Anyway, I am sure your ex-therapist received the messages and understands. You are NOT a lunatic. An ex is an ex no matter the context and the pain that comes with loss is natural. It shows you had a special therapeutic relationship.
As far as not talking about ex-therapist to new one seems absured, but I have a theory.
People working in mental health seem to have an unwritten code of loyalty with each other. I think this makes them reluctant to talk about another colleague whether they know them or not. It might also spark some hidden insecurity if whether “they” (the new therapist) are doing a good job, living in the shadow of another, or can live up and surpass the comparison.
Good therapy should create a forum. I would definitely join as I enjoy sharing experiences here and wouldn’t mind keeping in contact with you Geroireland.
geroirelandJanuary 17th, 2016 at 1:58 PM
to add. the psychiatrist told me not to bring up my ex councillor with my new one. I didn’t ask why. any ideas?
geroirelandJanuary 18th, 2016 at 1:54 PM
thanks for the reply Kay..
I will be speaking to my ex councillors manager tomorrow, I guess to finish up completely with their services and explain how I feel. At the end of the day the girl I miss I cannot be in contact with so I have to get over it myself. There comes a stage really where no more can be said or done.
That psychiatrist was insensitive. you’re right there. I might write her a letter to let her know how I feel. That sort of treatment, tough love or whatever she thought is was isn’t helpful
AlexandraMarch 19th, 2016 at 2:44 AM
It has been months and months since my therapist cut me off, and I am not raving and emotionally out of control, but I am depressed by this and hate myself for caring and for hurting. I wish I didn’t. I cannot understand this total insensitivity, this total cutting off when I thought I had a positive, healthy relationship with her. Clearly, she feels we didn’t have that. I feel so sad some days…wow. I feel so inept through all of this. The only place I can turn to is in the silence of this forum. I am not sure I can ever trust another therapist or therapy again after this. I just never imagined this would happen. I don’t want to see another therapist, but equally I need support. I have read the stories of others here, and I don’t relate to chasing a therapist, and insisting, etc. But my heart feels so hurt. So hurt. I do focus on new relationships and life around me. But in the empty, sad moments, this sadness returns with a terrible vengeance. Do you think this woundedness will ever disappear? I seem wholly unable to forgive my therapist for this. And I hate that I feel that way. You see the circular, confused emotions.
WendyMarch 19th, 2016 at 1:00 PM
It’s been very helpful reading what others are going through. Alexandra, Gero, Kay, Dianne, your words especially touch my heart. Gero, I had a bad experience, actually two now that I think of it, with psychiatrists in the past. Neither of them should be in practice, in my opinion. I felt horrible after seeing them, they made me feel like I was weak and inadequate and weird. It’s people like that in the world that send many of us to seek therapy in the first place. I hep you’re convinced there are bad apples and the best thing is to recognize them for what they are and pat yourself on the back for taking care of yourself enough to take the chance and keep clear on their treatment of you, and never look back.
My long-time therapist ended up having to terminate her practice. We spoke on the phone in January. She called me finally, when she was well enough to. I was having vivid dreams/nightmares up until that conversation. She was warm, supportive, and open to seeing me for a last time, but I have yet to follow up on that. I don’t want to face that last goodbye…not very realistic but I think some of you would understand. I’m on the shy side and have had so many losses in life, I don’t relish initiating the step. The therapist who had filled in for her for many months and I decided to continue, although it is such a major adjustment. I’m fortunate that she is understanding and supportive, I just have limited access and also what Kay said about therapists talking with us about previous therapists, it is awkward. Now, though, I’m limited by finances on top of changing therapists, so I can only see her once or twice a month. It is definitely a big shift. I’m trying to bring all the years of positive changes with me to handle difficult situations, and not making any changes with my meds at all, either, although sometimes I still get a wave of depression so may need to address that soon. My healthcare insurance changed, I am dealing with a new system, new doctors. That is unrelated to the loss of my therapist but just coincidentally happened at the same time. Trying to keep a positive approach. I know exactly what the aching and depression is like, the emptiness that was not even a possibility during the time we’ve been in therapy with our long-time, supportive therapists. Suddenly, when they’re gone for whatever reason, it leaves us in shock, feeling confused, mistrustful, full of self-doubts, inept as Alexandra put it. I’ve told my new therapist most of the main things I want her to know of my past and current struggles, but all the momentum is thrown off when I have to stop and describe these things or add details that my previous therapist already knew. And what I have not brought up, what I know I’m avoiding and avoiding talking about with her, is getting up the nerve to see my previous therapist, and the awkwardness of talking about my old therapist with her (my new one). They know each other, worked in the same building with others, in meetings together. I’m just so sensitive to all that and have been afraid to bring it up….so you all may be the strength or insight I need to bring it up this Monday when I have my next appointment. When we were talking on the phone in January, my old therapist even brought up something she knew had deeply affected me that I had forgotten about; I’d forgotten the incident but she knew it was why I felt the way I did about the thing we were discussing. Sorry, I’m probably rambling…I can just really relate with the pain and loss even with a new and good therapist. It’s a double whammy with limited access (financial) to her. My only saving grace is that I had been able to make some big decisions that improved my life just a few months before my old therapist was gone. I’m so grateful she was available during the worst times. I just don’t feel I have had closure….I feel a connection to her that I really doubt I can ever find again. Still at a loss….
Best thoughts and wishes to you who are also struggling. Thank goodness for this forum.
p.s. Dianne, I hope you’re feeling better and that your back is healing. So hard living with chronic pain.
DianeMarch 19th, 2016 at 3:58 PM
Transitions are difficult. Believe in yourself. Keep on keeping on!
PeteJuly 11th, 2016 at 6:36 PM
I understand the safety measures set up for the protection of patients and therapists alike. I’m however a little puzzled about the way many psychologists DON’T really address the separation issues AFTER the termination. Completing the therapy feels great! You walk out of the office for the last time and you feel accomplished like you’ve just graduated and then it hits you, you poor soul! The person you’ve spent months (years even) and grew attached to (maybe even started loving a little in a way) won’t be there for you anymore and what’s worse you are not really allowed to contact her. It amplifies the feeling of loss even more. It’s a kind of grief that is harder to recover from than grieving after someone died. At least you don’t constantly think about what will happen if you run into your dead relative again. Do therapists warn patients about what can happen after termination? If they don’t it’s just puzzling to me. Transference may occur and the only option you have is talking to another therapist. And then another one about the issues that arose with the second therapist, etc. It would be much more normal (as in “not weird”) if the patients could have the contact option open or at least feel like they can always talk to their former therapist. The restraint makes you want to break from it even more. You will always want to press the button you were no allowed to press. Seriously! Don’t mental health professionals know how the human brain works? I think it would resolve a lot of pain out there if we all just took the Victorian sticks out of our butts. I know the termination can be painful for the therapists as well. We are just human but the rules and regulations are not very human and we have to come up with better solutions. I think our grandchildren will look back at it the same way we look back at electric shock therapy and ice baths. Thank you.
DianeJuly 12th, 2016 at 10:40 AM
I wholeheartedly agree. There needs to be a more humane way.
geroirelandJuly 12th, 2016 at 3:23 PM
I agree too.
It’s been 7 months since my last contact with my councillor. If I think about her I end up in tears. It is like the loss of a loved one. I’d love her to know how I’m doing, maybe send her a letter, but I don’t want her to feel she needs to reply (as she is not allowed to as our time has come to an end).
This lady changed my life. I’d love her to know how much she means to me!
PeteJuly 20th, 2016 at 4:43 PM
A little tiny update. I’ve been desperate to contact my former therapist for reasons most of you would understand. The only way I found was through facebook’s private messenger. Stupid idea? Maybe. I was in a lot of grief and just letting her know she was in my thoughts felt like closure (nothing controversial in the message). The institution’s reaction to my dilemma? A threatening letter from the security telling me to stop my attempts to contact her under the threat of restraining order. Can you say “big guns”? This makes me questions the entire field of psychiatry and now on top of grief I feel betrayed. I’m not a creep! This country has to chill the heck out. At least now I feel like it’s not me who needs psychiatric help here.
PeteJuly 20th, 2016 at 4:48 PM
Can the mental health professionals at least make sure they are less visible on the web (unless they do want to be found)? There are ways to do it. Use a nick name on facebook for starters. It’s called social network. I don’t even believe you can sue someone for using a social network , can you?
GeroshiteJuly 21st, 2016 at 10:12 AM
I messaged mine. She never looked at it. But I’d say she saw it via her email alerts.
Doesn’t sound like you’ve threatened anyone?
PeteJuly 22nd, 2016 at 8:14 PM
No threats unless writing that you miss someone’s company and are glad to know she is out there in the world sounds like a threat. I’m beyond furious about how the mental health “professionals” are NOT handling this delicate matter. Are they not equipped with knowledge about transference and post termination weirdness? I find myself in a position of having to explain to them how the human mind works. I received another threatening letter today (same content). I feel like there is a large piece in this disturbing puzzle I’m missing. The anxiety I was so proud to overcome rolled back in and brought friends with. I’m thinking about contacting an attorney and feeling like a cornered animal. Sounds like someone (whoever sends me multiple threats) is over-excited with creating a controversy that is not there. I have no idea what to do next. Furious!
PeteJuly 22nd, 2016 at 8:46 PM
What bugs me the most is that it’s also a renown and respectable medical institution (the name of which I can’t disclose here).
JennaSeptember 24th, 2016 at 3:03 PM
My heat goes out to all of you for your horrific experiences. After being reassured for one and a half years that my therapist would not terminate me, he did so brutally, when I was in a terrible mental and emotional state. Just days after his last assurance that he would not terminate, he did so in a cold-hearted manner and asked me not to contact him again. Nothing had changed in that final week . I was just feeling distressed yet again. He encouraged me to reach out when I needed to. That was the response I got.
When I look back, he did threaten termination as early at a few month into therapy and at least three times in total. Those threats made me feel so emotionally terrorised that I went into emotional lock-down and did and said whatever I could do prevent the termination happening. In retrospect, one threat is too many. If I ever have therapy again, any mention of termination will lead me to instantly terminate. The only grounds should be violence or threats of violence (something I never did). After the emotional terrorisation and systematic isolation and shaming I got from my family, the termination was, and continues to feel like, an absolute repetition of that. I see that my fellow travellers on this road know the depth of agony, which cannot really be described.
Some weeks later I am trying to crawl my way out of the hole I have been thrown into. The first thing I need to get perspective on is that he never cared and loved me the way I imagined. That is what hurts the most. But then my parents and siblings didn’t love and care about me the way I had desperately hoped they would so it is just the same thing. Feels like I am cursed and not able to be loved. I need human compassion and love in therapy to heal. I have met with a few new potential therapists and have not felt supported in the first session, so said good-bye. I often didn’t feel understood or supported by this therapist, in one way or another. Though there were times he gave brilliant support. I persevered, hoping those times would become the norm.
One thing I am taking from this is that if a therapist cannot be emotionally and mentally present in the first session to the extent that I feel understood and supported, I will not see them.
Chances are I will not find such a person.
But it is better to have no therapist than one who is hurting you. We of all people don’t need another person to hold us in contempt.
People will try to tell us maybe we are too damaged to feel support, or maybe we need to learn to trust.
Those are lies. We need to be honest about what we are receiving. And we don’t need to trust anyone. We can take risks and enter a relationship, but trust is redundant, cos in the end people will do what they choose to do. Stick by you cos they care about you, or ditch you cos they cannot be bothered with you. Where does trust figure in all of this? Doesn’t change the outcome one bit.
Survivors like us need to trust OURSELVES more. Not everything is a PTSD flashback, just cos we were abused doesn’t mean that we can’t tell whether the person sitting across the room from us cares or not. We can tell. Therapists wish we couldn’t tell, so that they would stop being called out on it.
I wish you all well.
Breaking away from a bad relationship is always hard, but whether we have the courage to end it or we are thrown out, let’s wipe the dust off our feet and try the next location, or take a break first, whichever our heart tells us we need.
PaulaSeptember 26th, 2016 at 7:28 AM
I am so sorry that so many of you just like myself have been treated unfairly by your therapists. termination with my t was heart wrenching and I cry for weeks and felt devastated, betrayed, used (what he portrayed as genuine care for me was just interest in having a different case study to expand on his resume) and angry. The anger led me to determination to not let this person who was not capable to be a good care giver be the center of my universe and reduce me to nothing. I started to exercise and get out of the house and stop feeling sorry for myself. it was really hard to do but the more I got out the less I thought about feeling abandoned by someone I opened up to.
At the same time I understood that many of these therapist are trained to find the cancer but when they go in deep to attempt to pull it out they are not well trained to deal with the bleeding. when the blood starts to gush out they don’t know how to slow it down and stop it. They just put a bandage on it and run out scared. I sincerely think that their pure intention is to help us but sometimes they are over their heads. We have to forgive them and do our best on trying to move forward and try to find the positive we got from the therapy and hold on to that
MaryGraceAugust 27th, 2018 at 10:29 AM
Your determination to exercise gives me a spark of motivation: I’m in the same boat…. I have to stop thinking about feeling abandoned by someone I opened up to.
To me the bleeding from the surgery can also be negative feelings that come out and sometimes against the therapist. But I don’t mean bad words, accusations or disrespect. Only anger can be subtle, like feelings of disappointment. Then they don’t know how to help; they get scared at the “negativity”. Their intention is to help. But if their training was weekend lessons on how to do therapy, and they never had their own therapy, they are in a unique position to deal out even more hurt than the client came in with. I agree, “we have to forgive them and do our best on trying to move forward and try to find the positive we got from the therapy and hold on to that”, but the pain of loss is something I tried very hard to avoid by not having friends. And now here it is in spades, from the person I least expected it, because he can’t handle my “negative” emotions. ASll the while he validates that the emotions are justified. Very confusing.
Christine EJanuary 16th, 2017 at 11:05 PM
I am sympathetic to everyone’s story here, as I have had similar feelings, but something that noone is considering is that these therapists have their own sense of loss too, and will often seek their own counselors to deal with this. These therapists have tried to serve you with love and compassion and non judgement that is why it is so powerful. When therapy is over both sides have loss but to turn feelings of loss to resentment for someone that has served your needs seems to become selfish. If someone you love dies, you grieve, you may even be angry, but generally you dont blame them and disavow what a difference they made in your life. I feel sad for the loss of a person that has served my interests so well, but ending while sad, is part of having a healthy therapeutuc process where goodbye means being unstuck.
EmmyJanuary 19th, 2017 at 8:34 PM
Christine, what a wonderful way to look at it. It is true that they been on this journey with us. I just had my last therapy session today with someone I had been with for a long time. Knowing it was coming, I still feel abandoned, sad and angry. I feel as if I’m still having the pain that brought me to therapy in the first place compounded by the loss of the therapeutic relationship. I had pretty intense transference that did ease up after time, but I guess I wasn’t ready for termination. Now I feel as if I need a new therapist to deal with this loss. I can’t believe it is over.
JodyJanuary 19th, 2017 at 9:26 PM
In the case of unexpected termination or when the client has not been prepared for termination, I think the problem is that the client never gets to hear the therapist’s reasons why they felt so propelled to terminate therapy. The client is left clueless as of what exactly caused the therapist to flee. Did the client do something that scared the therapist, did the client trigger counter transference, and if he/she did, what kind. Did we awaken some of the therapists own issues or did we display some behavior that would annoy any person. Did the therapist feel too emotionally engaged with the client and feared breaching boundaries? Was the client too needy and the therapist felt too drained? Did the therapist never really like the client even as they tried to be neutral and they couldn’t stand to spend one more session with the client? What was it?
If I knew exactly why my therapist felt compelled to terminate, then I could accept the termination and work on the issue that propelled the abrupt ending. I could make sure I monitor my reactions or opinions better to avoid awkward social situations.
In other words, if the therapist could be more open and honest and tell us what was so repelling, then that in itself could help us do the therapeutic work that really needs to be done to prevent us from losing other important relationships in our lives.
When termination happens without the client being emotionally ready and not getting a proper explanation why therapist is walking away, client feels abandoned and like the very intimate relationship that developed was a farce. We feel like a lab rat that was provided a fake environment to trigger emotions/reactions just for observation. Even as we know it’s a professional relationship, real feelings take place and we would like to know that the therapist at least has some positive regard for us and cares about our wellbeing. But when they seem so unaffected, we feel used and discarded.
So can you blame clients for feeling dismissed, discarded, rejected and for experiencing some level of disappointment and hurt even as we know that this relationship was not “real” but a therapeutic alliance. These feelings are beyond our control, we are experiencing transference and we don’t understand this unless its clearly explained to us and we are taught how to solve the transference feelings.
Christine EJanuary 21st, 2017 at 7:36 AM
Hi Everyone – I just want to clarify – there should never be unexpected termination. At a minimum it should be discussed in person ( even if we aren’t “ready”) and then given at least a couple more sessions to deal with the feelings that come up as a result. I personally only know one therapist that has terminated without notice when she became terminally ill, so she wrote a letter that went to all of her clients with referring physicians for them to see immediately. The other case would be if the client has crossed boundaries after being warned and discussed multiple times. I know of someone that had an angry outburst that included breaking things – so that was a no-go.
Other than those experiences – I believe the therapists would be negligent in their care if you do not get at least 2 to 3 sessions to discontinue and if needed referred to someone else. These relationships are supposed to be collaborations towards your health. It is the same reason that a therapist should not be giving you their cell phone/email etc to use outside of business hours. The idea is to help you learn to cope within your own social structure, not to become a friend in theirs.
Its terrible that so many of you have been treated that way. My previous post was more to show that in a healthy therapeutic relationship, there is still loss on both sides, but hopefully with preparation it is like moving into a new phase.
AlexandraFebruary 1st, 2017 at 2:12 AM
Can I just say, it’s been a couple of years now, and I am healing. I love my therapist for all she did for me, and it is just a healthy kind of love and respect for her. I do not blame her, and while I’ve had moments of anger early on, and sadness still today, I understand that this is just how it is, and we all have the right to terminate a relationship. In my case, it was done with notice, and as hard as this is, I have moved on to find another therapist, which has helped. But I still miss my therapist. I still do. I think I always will feel aggrieved by this in little ways, from time to time. I think it certainly is an area for more honest exploration of the nature of this phenomenon. I’m grateful for this discussion thread.
jodyFebruary 17th, 2017 at 11:05 PM
I wish i could stop being angry, i want to but every time i come here, it reawakens notso positive feelings. if he wanted to terminate he should of warned me. i think he tried once but i think i told him i still needed help tackling other issues.
Sometimes i feel he had little control of the therapy and that i sort of ran it. i wish he had put me in my place as opposed to being afraid of scaring me away. I’m angry that he was not in charge because it prevented me from benefiting from the therapy.
I never told him i was angry, i didn’t want to make him feel guilty, i told him things that bothered me when we had our last session but i never said i was angry, instead i thanked him for being a good therapist and a good person. But i was so upset he thought it was okay to do what he did, i wasn’t emotionally prepared and i resented it so much. i want to shrug it off but i can’t. Just like Christine, Emmy and Alexandra I want to say nice things about my therapist but every time i just feel disappointed and cheated out of a positive termination. It was just a cowardly thing to do to take advantage of a situation to walk away. I so desperately want to forgive him but i’m not there yet. i feel so wronged.
AlexandraFebruary 18th, 2017 at 8:02 PM
Hi Jody. The pain in your post really comes through here and what I want to say is this: take care of yourself. And if you haven’t found a new therapist yet who can help you to grieve this but also move on and look at the grief that may be up in other areas of your life, too, I really recommend you do this. Your heart is hurt. Your mind can’t make sense of every aspect of this ending and your analysis of the therapy you had before seems to indicate there are lots of unresolved feelings about what happened. Work through it with someone else and know that your feelings are legitimate. I think there needs to be much more info out there about termination of therapy for clients to be aware of how this can go. Knowing what I know now, it’s the first thing I have discussed with my new therapist. I never want to feel dumped in that way again, ever. If someone dies, that’s one thing. It’s traumatic. But to be cut off rather than told…it’s over, but you can email me from time to time even if I don’t answer you…I know it seems illogical, but even that would have offered some sort of mad comfort. To feel dismissed wholesale was just the worst. To give my therapist credit, I think she genuinely believed it would be better for me to know she would give nothing back. But while I understand that, I will never understand or believe the reasons why. I feel the whole truth was not discussed because she wanted to spare me that. It’s all so hard. My pain is easing, but my disappointment remains. I recommend we all take very good care of ourselves and make sure the next therapist isn’t inclined to be so ‘clinical’. I’ve heard from a therapist that there are as many different ways of ending as there are therapists. I guess you just have to chalk things up to a huge loss, some sort of misunderstanding, and let go. I teeter between deep pain and disappointment about this, longing for my old therapist at times, grief, understanding and forgiveness. But I sure am not going to obsess about this forever. Hope that helps.
jodyMay 8th, 2017 at 12:52 AM
Thank you for your kind words. You motivated me to look back and review my time spent in therapy. This time i looked at all the text messages and emails we exchanged before and during therapy and i can see how i overwhelmed him. There was so much going on in my life at that time that the therapy got derailed and he grew frustrated with the fact that he felt ineffective. i needed to solve all these situations that kept popping up and i needed a lot of help with them, he got so involved in my personal life that we barely got any therapeutic work done. He was so enterwined that when i offered him a way out by terminating impulsively, he ran with it. I know he felt terrible to leave me on my own, because he was really drawn to me, but he needed to do it because it was draining him emotionally too and i suspect that it started to affect his marriage.
In looking back i see that he did so much for me and i forgive him for abandoning me and i hope he can forgive me for drawing him so deeply into my life that it started to affect his too.
So Alexandra, I want to thank you for your empathy, sometimes all we need is some kindness from a neutral person that can help us look back from a different perspective in a more objective less emotional way.
AlexandraMay 9th, 2018 at 7:34 PM
Jody, I’m glad my thoughts have helped you. I think I have resolved most of my feelings about my former therapist and that came with time, reviewing my notes and seeing (too) how my process may have exhausted her capacity with me, her ideas, as I wasn’t changing. I’m really pleased for you that you could find a way to heal some of this. It’s good.
RitaFebruary 25th, 2017 at 7:07 PM
I appreciate finding this website. I absolutely adore my therapist. Í have been seeing her for over 2 years through my divorce, and am coming to a point where I can tell she thinks I’m ready (and I can’t even say the other ‘t’ word you’re all using) to ‘taper’. I feel so much better, and yes, I agree that I don’t need her like I used to. BUT, I can’t imagine not having her in my life anymore. Every time I think about not getting to see her ever again, I am overwhelmed with grief. I have processed through a LOT of loss and grief, and this one is just so intense and painful because she is the one who I could trust every week with all my pain and history. I have another session with her in a couple of weeks. I have been in tears every single day since I left her office 5 days ago, just thinking about the inevitable. She, unlike many of your therapists you’ve mentioned, is not kicking me to the curb, and very well may think I’m just not ready to move on because of abandonment issues… but I don’t think it’s actually abandonment. I am losing her. That’s a thing. I’m seeing it over and over in every entry I am reading here. She’s laughed with me, cried with me, seen me heal and grow… It’s the finality of ‘never again’ that is just killer. It is a death of sorts. I am so glad she is a therapist and is there to help so many people. I guess it’s sort of like the end of Mary Poppins where we can think of them as being needed by someone else now, and try to selflessly let them go to continue to do what they were made to do, and what they have so graciously decided to do with their lives. Being a therapist is no easy job, and I want to find a resting place of gratitude and release. It’s just so painful at this point in the process.
SadSeptember 20th, 2017 at 10:07 AM
Rita, I like the way you put that:-). I’m going thru the loss of my therapist also. It’s been extremely hard and almost a bit embarrassing to have such strong feelings of loss. Ive dealt with a lot of loss in my life yet this seems like it may be the worst so far:-(. Perhaps it’s because she helped me to find emotions and feelings that I wouldn’t allow myself have or to feel before. I have had some contact but I’m trying to keep it to a minimum. I’ve never had someone in my life that I can’t just pick up the phone or shoot a text to. That’s been very hard for me. It’s been 3 or 4 months and I’m ready to get over it. Lol. I’m going to focus on being happy for the others that will have her to help them thru their issues and try not dwelling on my loss. Thanks:-)
CJMarch 17th, 2018 at 10:16 AM
Everyone’s comments have been so helpful here, just knowing I’m not alone! Although I am sorry that each one of you has had to experience the loss of a therapist! I too was terminated this month from a 9 year therapist relationship due to his retirement. He was like a father I never had! He helped me raise my kids (through his advice), and helped me set boundaries with my difficult marriage and care giving of my parents. I know he was just a therapist but it was the only really safe place I had where I could be totally me and accepted. He was always a professional but oh so caring, always telling me what we did was special and that everything would be ok. I’m feeling so lost! I just feel lost. Grieving is a heart matter and nothing prepared me for how badly I’m hurting. I even sent him a thank you letter asking for my records should I continue therapy elsewhere and told him how much I wished he would have given his clients his email so we could at least e-mail him good news and Christmas greetings. I received a letter back with three paragraphs summarizing my 9 years of therapy for me to use as my records and a brief one paragraph saying he wished me God’s blessings on my life ahead. Received that today and can’t stop crying again. I can’t walk around telling others I’m grieving the loss of my therapist so I truly feel all alone in the world. Will these feelings ever stop or lose their intensity?
MaryApril 7th, 2018 at 8:47 PM
I loved reading these posts. Two comments really stuck out to me. The first was a post from Pete where he discusses how therapists don’t really discuss separation issues after therapy (grief, overwhelming sense of loss). In that post he says that in the future, the way this and related issues are currently handled, will be looked at the same way we now look back at electric shock therapy and ice baths. Not soon enough! I think I’m going to bring this up in my next therapy session. The second post that really interested me was the one that talked about how therapists may be able to find the “cancer” but don’t know what to do when the blood starts spurting out! Spot on! Also, I think Christine is not seeing the big picture when she focuses on the pain and loss the therapist feels upon termination. The difference between their loss and ours is substantial. They have been trained in this and have probably had a lot more experience with it. Also, they are professionals. They are paid listeners. I find it somewhat difficult to garner too much sympathy for them. The bottom line is, no matter how painful it is, we must restrain ourselves. No Facebook messaging (you have got to be kidding me), calling, texting, emailing, stalking, third party contact etc. It’s over. Just like the end of any other relationship, humiliating yourself just makes it worse. I have not always practiced what I preach but I really wish I had.
SamMay 9th, 2018 at 2:22 PM
@Mary – Wholeheartedly agree. The FB stalking, calling, texting, etc., are all borderline creepy!
MattNovember 21st, 2019 at 12:10 AM
I don’t think acknowledging the grief a therapist feels diminishes that of the client. I think it’s a testament to how strong the bond you shared was. Obviously the client will feel it more powerfully, but therapists are people too. They’re feelers. It’s natural that they’re going to be sad upon finishing work with a client.
geroshiteMay 9th, 2018 at 3:17 PM
these professionals should not be accessible on facebook. Mine was and still is and caused me a lot of sadness. I messaged her once and that was it but realizing we had friends in common was very hard to deal with. I find it amazing she has left details about her private live so accessible. even her boss knew about my concerns and seemed to ignore it.
AlexandraMay 9th, 2018 at 7:52 PM
Social media is for everyone and definitely I think therapists are people who as professionals must find their way with this. I do not expect my ex-therapist to hide their identities. If they were published authors or speakers, they would be visible. I guess, I know when I’m snooping, stalking, looking up…and it’s happened…and I KNOW that is or was me crossing the line professionally with my therapist. I also know that kind of behavior while predictable and normal…it’s a seeking, isn’t it?…doesn’t really help all that much. It might provide a secondary non-responsive contact to see my ex-therapist is alive, but actually I know I’m wrong to persist invading her space. I know the reason for the boundaries. And she also have the right to a clean ending. So, for me, I took solace in my work with a new therapist who is fantastic and a bit more helpful for me. There are rules about how we operate and I agree with them. Her boundaries are different and I like that. I can write after a session and mostly she won’t respond but will if I ask for a response. I rarely impose on her in that way. We do online therapy by the way. So sometimes my clarity comes after the therapy. I really miss my former therapist but mostly I don’t. It’s a habit to miss her, sometimes. Sometimes a memory is triggered and then I miss her. But I don’t want the feeling. It elicits grief. I grieve when I feel it and try to switch my focus fast. Or I process this with my new (now old) therapist. I have some anxiety about this current therapist ending in the future. But mostly I just think time has given me some levity. I have learned to carry my sadness without being angry at my former therapist. I hold her in positive regard from afar and that’s how I want to be remembered and thought of, too, not as a neurotic stalking fanatic. That’s my process. It’s human to want to keep making the ending better. I’m learning that endings don’t need to be so hard. It’s my clinging that makes them hard. I want to get better at letting go…with love and respect, of course, but definitely for the good of all concerned. And I mean that. Everyone deserves that.
AlexandraMay 9th, 2018 at 8:08 PM
I will add, I appreciate everyone’s comments and pain. It’s been interesting to follow this discussion for a few years now. Three years later after ending with my therapist I still email her updates quarterly, which she ignores but I know appreciates because last year she told me so. So I was granted permission by the lack of protest to keep her filled in – I think – but it’s a precarious thing for me, I think, to keep wanting or needing to write. It is a clinging. I can own that. Even if in the moment it is bigger hearted and more about just giving her (too) the ending of my story in the moment (therapists do wonder what happened to you), I recognize that perhaps full healing will be in the triumph of never needing to write again.
It doesn’t feel nice to be ignored. So why I put myself through that…is part of my learning.
I guess we all have to find our way. I truly have compassion for the initial outrage that people experience with therapeutic termination. I think I’ll discuss this with my therapist next session. This thread has been hugely helpful to me. Thank you all for sharing and listening. I wish us all continued healing.
Ending Therapy BluesJune 23rd, 2018 at 8:13 AM
I appreciate this thread and I wanted to add my story.
A few years ago I left a high demand group that some call a cult. I was crying a lot and my boyfriend suggested I see someone. I ended up finding a trauma therapist who worked with me for over two years. We processed the trauma of my childhood (witnessing domestic violence that led to me using substances for years and then the trauma that comes along with alcohol abuse) along with the trauma of leaving the dysfunctional new age therapy group I was in.
The therapist saw me a clinic. So my biggest fear was that my therapist would just leave and I would be stranded. She hinted to the fact that she would not be at the clinic forever and told me I could continue to see her in private practice and that when we terminated she would still be a social worker in the community so I could reach out.
We had worked together over two years when she told me the news that she was leaving. Instantly I started crying and thanked her for her time. It had felt like we had done most of our work together and I was thinking of leaving anyways. In order to feel more of control of the termination I chose to leave about 2 months before she left the clinic. and honestly it felt like she was unfocused the past couple months of therapy anyways even though the “ritual” of therapy was very helpful.
I am very glad she did not leave in the first year of therapy. I feel like we had worked through so much of my baggage together that really all I could do was go and live.
What I learned from this experience was I could have a good ending with a helping professional. It was not perfect at all. but during my therapy she was not my only line of support. I attended Smart Recovery meetings and continued to read books about PTSD and addiction and continued my search.
I also am happy I only spent just over 2 years in therapy. I never wanted to use it as a crutch or to live in a therapy bubble for longer than necessary.
So now the world seems a little bit rougher. I miss her. I went through the stages of grief with her. My friends threw me a birthday party the other day and I wanted to share the good news with my therapist. but that relationship is over and I take our work together as it lives inside of me.
I am glad not to be seeing a therapist anymore. I think becoming too dependent on an outside source can be problematic. Therapists are just people.
Anyways. In the past three months since my therapist told me she was leaving I have returned to this blog many times. So thank you all for sharing what you had to say as well.
MiraMarch 14th, 2019 at 7:00 AM
“Ending Therapy Blues” – first of all, great nickname!
I’ve just had my last session after 1.5 years, and yes, it’s painful. I never really thought it would be this hard because I tried my best to make sure I wouldn’t get overly attached.
But I 100% feel the same way about therapy as you do. Ending therapy was a very good choice for me, and I’m at peace with carrying on with my life on my own. So, termination was a clear and mutual thing in our case: we agreed on the final date weeks before.
However, saying goodbye to the person who’s been by my side through the worst and then the best period of my life feels very harsh. I have thought a lot about it, and it’s not transference or anything like that. It’s just the plain fact that a human relationship is ending – because the therapeutic relationship is a human relationship too, however artificial it seems.
Pete, I also 100% agree with your first comment, the absolutely no contact rule only makes it worse. I know and understand and respect that it’s for boundary reasons. Yes, clearly, a therapist has their own life and circle of friends, it’s impossible for them to equally keep in touch with all former clients, and it would be very unfair if they offered it to some clients and not to others. Nevertheless, I would find it WAY more humane if clients were allowed to send a limited amount of e-mails/messages at least during the first few weeks after termination, to create a smoother transition between “attending therapy weekly or even multiple times a week” and “this relationship doesn’t exist anymore”. My therapist, for example, doesn’t allow contact (unless there’s an emergency), but instead offers a singular “check-in session” 3 months after termination, and I think it’s brilliant. I know that I have something to look forward to, while I also have 3 months to process my grief and attachment – and get used to life without therapy.
AFebruary 7th, 2019 at 7:58 PM
I had a therapist terminate with me last year because she was changing her jobs (no longer a postdoctoral scholar seeing clients through a training clinic). She was also pregnant and so the timeline was incredibly fuzzy and painful due to that. I rationally and logically knew that neither of these things were personal but it felt awful. She referred me to another clinic and now…the therapist I have been seeing is terminating due to logistics (nothing to do with me). After 8 months. I know I need to be able to go through this again since I have no choice. But it is bringing up so much grief and I am afraid it’s not in the healthy “well now we have some grist for the mill” kind of processing. I feel so rejected and it is so painful. I feel so foolish. I had just started to trust her a little bit and felt comfortable talking about some childhood trauma…the very next session when I came in feeling uncomfortable about how that felt (to rehash old stories that I had already hashed through dozens of times with my old therapist and fear that I am just wallowing), she broke the news about the termination. It is so hard not to feel like there is something wrong with me that I keep trying to seek external support and it keeps getting taken away.
BethJune 18th, 2019 at 6:44 PM
This is a follow up of my own posting from June 3rd. I saw my new therapist again today and told her I probably would not be coming back. It’s too hard going there and seeing my previous therapist whose office is right across the hall. I saw him right before my session and talked to him for a minute before going in, told him I missed him. Thought I would be ok running into him by now but I’m not. It still really hurts not being able to see him. It was really hard and again when I left I sat in my car and cried, which again I’ve been doing off and on all day. I can’t go back there anymore… The other center where I wanted to go hasn’t called and who knows when they’ll have an opening, so I’ll just do without. At least I’m not in dire need at this time…..
The One Time I am AnonFebruary 21st, 2019 at 5:38 PM
Sorry to be awkward and late, my therapist made sure I didn’t come back. He also made sure I would rethink therapy before I tried it again. He also made sure I would rethingk many things. all while trying not to blame my self for whatever I did wrong. There are great ones, there are therapists who are good, some are so so , some are bad, some are bat s*** crazy, guess who I found!!!
MaryFebruary 28th, 2019 at 12:26 PM
I’m adding just because I truly do not understand what happened. I received a call which I missed that went to voicemail. It was from my therapist’s boss, coworker or whoever he is. The message he left was that my therapist was no longer with them(their organization). Left a number I could call if I wished info about seeing another one of their therapists or info on other outside therapy in the community. I tried to call the number he left but it was a recording of hang up and call this number for this reason if you are this persons client and it went threw a list of all the current therapists and numbers to call. It gave me no idea who I should speak to since my therapist was gone and not included in the list. So I have had no closure whatsoever.
I have no idea what happened. Where did she go? We were having bad weather was she injured or killed in an auto accident? I received no warning at all. I am very lost confused hurt and at this point angry as well. I admit I sent one text to see if I got a response from her after the crazy phone recording mess. Of course I received no response. I had been her client for several years and then poof she is gone with no explanation.
MiraMarch 14th, 2019 at 7:16 AM
Mary, I’m so, so, so sorry to hear that. I’ve just gone through termination – in my case, it was a mutual agreement, we talked about everything, and I had weeks to prepare. Still, today, I went to university bawling my eyes out. Getting a voicemail and no further explanation after years – that’s cruel and unprofessional of the organization. If something happened and your therapist suddenly had to leave the organization, you and his/her other clients would still deserve a face-to-face explanation where you can ask your questions, clear up the confusion and tell how you feel.
My thoughts are with you. I really hope you will find a new therapist – and possibly a new organization that handles short notice terminations in a more professional way. Time will heal the pain.
LizMarch 14th, 2019 at 9:19 AM
It has been s helpful to read all your comments. I thought I was going mad to be feeling as desperately hurt as I am. My husband died last year and I have only had 22 meetings with my counsellor. The hospice where she worked just phoned me and told me she no longer worked there! I cried and cried. I felt abandoned, betrayed, bereaved all over again. They won’t forward my card to her and I have no way of contacting her. I feel so lost.
MiraMarch 15th, 2019 at 2:58 AM
So sorry about that! Ending a therapeutic relationship so abruptly and over a phone call must be two times the pain and confusion and feeling of abandonment of a “normal” termination – and termination always hurts, even if you discuss it beforehand and are prepared. I can’t believe that ending therapy over a phone call or voicemail is an option for so many mental health organizations. I find it unacceptable. (Like, come on, even clients who severely violate the rules and boundaries of therapy deserve a fair warning before dismissal – and most of us don’t fall into this category!) Liz, and everyone else who experienced a similar way of termination, I’m really, really sorry you have to go through that. I hope that therapy organizations realize how much damage termination over the phone can cause and stop this horrible practice.
BethJune 3rd, 2019 at 7:50 PM
I just went through a termination with my therapist after 3 years. Even though it was pretty much mutual, it was difficult and I am still grieving. I was frustrated and annoyed the last two sessions; my last session was to discuss that issue. The next day(two weeks ago), I left him a message to call, that I needed to tell him something. He called me back and I told him I wasn’t coming back; therapy was no longer effective. We talked about it for a few minutes and he wished me well. I cried when I hung up. A week later I called to say I wanted to make an appointment and when he called back he said he wouldn’t see me anymore, there was no more therapeutic benefit. We discussed it and even though I already knew that it really hurt hearing it come from him. He had always been there for me, saw me through the worst time in my life, including a few hospitalizations(he always called me in the hospital), and the biggest thing he did for me was to help me resolve a childhood sexual abuse issue by calling my brother(the abuser)to explain how much hurt and pain I was in and what a high suicide risk I was at the time, which prompted my brother to call me with a heartfelt apology. Last week I tried calling another practice for an appointment and as many therapists as they have, there was no availability and they didn’t know when there would be. I was really frustrated! At another time my therapist offered to help me find someone else when I wasn’t sure I was going to continue with him, so l called him and asked if he could recommend someone and he called me back that evening to say one of the other therapists said she would take me on as a client. I saw her today and I think she wll be a good match. Saw my previous therapist when he came to get his next client and I thanked him. He was glad I was able to get an appointment so quickly. After I told him I wouldn’t be back I wrote him a letter thanking him for all he did for me and the help he gave me. He appreciated my letter. It wasn’t hard seeing him today but after I left my session with my new therapist I went out to the car and cried, which I’m still doing now. I have nothing but good things to say about my former therapist and I know I will be grieving for a while. I will probably see him almost every time I go back, but I will miss him being my therapist….
NancieMarch 15th, 2019 at 8:08 AM
I’m so sorry. I hope you find the help you need. I hope you find love and support. Unfortunately, some of us learned support doesn’t always come from therapists. Peace & solace to you.
NancyJune 18th, 2019 at 8:08 PM
I am in the process of terminating with a therapist after seeing her for 23 years. Today she come with me and had a session with the new therapist I have agreed to see. I am a mess. I’m considering not going to my last appointment with her as I know we will talk about all the things that will be forbidden after walking out that door. Things like no contact, no phone calls etc. I know what the restrictions are, I just think it will be worse to have to hear her directly tell me. I just don’t think I’m strong enough to hear this from her. Any thoughts on simply cancelling last session?
Christine EJune 19th, 2019 at 9:01 AM
Hi Nancy I wanted to respond to encourage you to not cancel. Why would you spend your last session going over “rules”? It is an opportunity to talk about all the progress you’ve made and to thank each other for a rewarding working relationship (or why did you work together that long). I think just canceling is actually a way to leave things unresolved and I suspect after time passes you may realize it felt like an immature ending. You can even take the time to say that you are worried about the grieving process – 23 years is like grieving the end of a marriage! But you’ll get through it and I think you’ll feel more empowered if you say what you need to in person. Good luck
DeeAugust 16th, 2019 at 5:53 PM
I came here thinking that having a feeling of loss after completing therapy was unusual. That perhaps I was having an unhealthy response. I see it’s common. I have one more session left. We’ve agreed that it is my last. I’ve been with him for almost a year. And I am absolutely better for it! But it’s hard to think he won’t be a part of my week to week. And I don’t want anything to get weird. I don’t have feelings for him. I think we would have made great friends, had I met him under other circumstances – but, you never know.
I’m just in a melancholy way – and I would like it to lessen over time.
BETHAugust 18th, 2019 at 3:57 PM
Hi Dee! I know how you feel. As indicated in my response above I saw my previous therapist for 3 years. After telling him I wouldn’t be back I decided I did want to see him again but he wouldn’t see me, that it wouldn’t be beneficial. Even though I kind of knew that, it hurt and was very difficult to end the relationship as he had seen me through the worst part of my life , including a few hospitalizations and helped to resolve a childhood abuse issue and mend my relationship with my brother(the abuser). I tried seeing someone else in that practice but both times left in tears as it was too hard to run into him each time. His office was right across the hall from hers. Never went back after that. The grief does lessen with time but it’s still hard. I still miss him… I had tried to get into another practice a couple months ago but they had no openings. I called them again a couple days ago and that office FINALLY has an opening. I am meeting with my new therapist this Wednesday and hope she is a good fit. It’s really hard starting over with someone new…….
Best of luck with your search and I hope you find someone compatible! Keep me posted!
AlexandraSeptember 24th, 2019 at 9:40 AM
Years after I suffered a very hard ‘termination’, I have read somewhat about therapeutic termination. This needs to be examined more by therapists who need to better prepare clients for the impermanence of their relationship from the beginning of their time together. Clients don’t really know what awaits them at the end. But also…every therapist does this according to their beliefs about what their client needs, mainly, and sometimes for their own needs. Arguably, cutting off fully is a questionable practice in SOME cases. But if you read about this phenomenon, you can learn that there are standards that highly discourage dual relationships. ie. friendships after. But there’s a lot in between a therapeutic relationship and a friendship. Contact and ‘dial relationships’ are not prohibited because this is a human relationship, after all. Do doctors severely silence you and cut you off? No. Do teachers? No. Never. Not in the same way. And both professions have codes of conduct. How can therapists consider total termination with long term clients the ONLY choice? I firmly disagree with this and believe therapists owe clients full disclosure at the beginning about this issue. Somehow. Building trust will be harder, maybe, but might better equip clients with a clearer view of how things will go.
I’m sure others more qualified than I have explained this fully and better. These are just my views. In the end, fostering dependence in a client is unhealthy. But I believe having unnatural, super strict endings is also. I’m not sure what the solution is.
Mary GraceSeptember 25th, 2019 at 11:17 AM
It has been helpful having this; even not commenting was helpful, because I knew it was here as a fallback. Now I don’t need it anymore. I have an excellent therapist and for the first time am learning what safe feels like. Though, it is an ongoing lesson. The therapist I had when I started this writing was so bad, that I needed about five other consultations to try to examine it. And none of them could say he was a bad therapist, because they weren’t there and had no way to really know. Now I know. And when I say bad I don’t mean intentions, but completely incompetent due to unacknowledged issues within the therapist. Naturally, I had issues. Duh! I was the patient! A therapist that practices after exclusively online courses, (no one is observing you), avoiding one’s own psychotherapy, and no self-awareness, can present a very toxic mix to the patient. I am grateful for this blog being here. I probably will taper down my responses. Thank you for listening.
AlexandraSeptember 25th, 2019 at 1:53 PM
You will be totally validated by this BBC iPlayer documentary on unqualified people posing as therapists!
Mary GraceSeptember 26th, 2019 at 10:37 AM
Wow! Thank you for that audio file from the BBC. I was surprised, with the problems my old therapist had, that they let him still have clients at his training institute. He added therapy hours with me by having 3 sessions a week, so he could easily complete his requirement and get his permanent license. Then he cut my hours back to once a week due to “job pressures”. By his own telling, he shared how he walked out of his personal psychotherapy because the therapist “stared” at him; how he was having personality clashes with his supervising therapist, and would make comments. He said he refused to share with others in his supervision group, since his way was “different”. He told me that I, too, could become a therapist by going to a university that offered an online MSW degree. The best thing that ever happened to me was when he dropped me as a client. All this is easy to see now. But last year I was beside myself and full of doubt and anxiety. Besides getting misdiagnosed. All is so much better now. Once you know you have a good person, not a perfect person, vision becomes 20-20. I guess the confusion, also, is part of the learning process.
BessaAugust 5th, 2021 at 5:57 PM
My therapist of 22 years retired a week ago. This person saw me through very serious PTSD and other, and was my mentor leading into my own therapy career. I know what grief is, I have treated it; and I know even despite working with a therapist, the pain of this is so pronounced. But I don’t feel comfortable attending grief groups because honestly people will minimize what I am experiencing, since my therapist didn’t die. I wish there was a grief group for this loss, where I wouldn’t offend others by being there.
Beth BAugust 6th, 2021 at 7:49 AM
22 years is a long time for a therapeutic relationship. Sounds like that therapist saw you through a lot and the grief you have is real and noone should minimalize your feelings!! The last therapist I had I saw for 3 years. He saw me through a whole lot as well and I grieved when that relationship ended. It was pretty much mutual as I felt it was no longer therapeutic and not benefiting me at all. Though I knew it was time to move on it was really difficult and I grieved as well. He had really helped me and I have nothing but good things to say about him, even wrote him a letter thanking him for all he did. I was fortunate enough to find another wonderful therapist a couple months later and she is a great fit for me!!
Wishing you well and hope you can find another great therapist and work through your grief of losing the last one.
AlexandraAugust 6th, 2021 at 8:25 AM
I have great compassion and empathy for you. It’s quite an unbelievable loss even when you expect it. What helped me was talking to a new therapist about this, and also talking to a friend who is a psychologist. Both had views that tempered some of my pain. Their acceptance of my grief also helped.
BethAugust 8th, 2021 at 5:35 PM
Bessa, I came here because my therapist of 27 years is about to retire- abruptly due to family health reasons. I absolutely know how you feel since I have no idea how to cope with is pending loss. I only have one session maybe two remaining. I’m looking for a new therapist but the pain I’m feeling is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.
RandiDecember 17th, 2021 at 10:02 PM
My therapist died and did not tell me she was sick. I am in terrible grief and feel completely blindsided. We worked together for almost 30 years. I don’t know if I will ever get over this. I created a tribute to her on YouTube. Randi
Christine EDecember 18th, 2021 at 3:52 PM
I am terribly sorry for your loss. I also think it is quite beautiful that if this was indeed an illness, your therapist chose to put your therapy first knowing that patient would continually have a divided focus if worried for the therapist. That is truly a therapist devoted to the profound sanctity of the patient/therapist relationship. I do hope you will find a way to also grieve and recover so that you’ll be able to feel that beautiful gesture.
RandiDecember 19th, 2021 at 12:14 PM
Christine E, thank you for your kind words. I do realize that my therapist gave me a gift. She knew I was caregiving my parents as they were at the end of their lives. She wanted the sessions to be about me and not about her. I get that. I also believe she intended to have a conversation with me and the gift she gave me backfired leaving us both feeling terrible. I have forgiven her and am forever grateful to her.
Warmly, Randi Weidman
JoMay 4th, 2022 at 6:58 AM
I found reading the comments here helped me a little as I too am someone who developed a very deep relationship with my therapist only to have her decide not to want to see me anymore after 15 years. 15 years. After telling me I was wonderful and telling me people can be relied upon she did everything she claimed she never would. In our last conversation she told me she had decided not to work with complex trauma anymore. I get why she would make that choice for herself but she proved what I always suspected of others. People are unreliable generally and at the end of the day people say lots of things and make lots of promises but ultimately they show they do not mean what they say. Therapists seem to work hard to make people like me connect with them and when that happens, when you finally go against all your intuition and trust they let you down. I don’t like people much anymore, it seems the world we live in is becoming more and more about ‘self’ and ironically people are feeling more and more alone than ever. I think many people have list their way, I know I have. I will never rely on another person again to be there for me but will at least try to extend myself to ensure I give that to others in my family at least… no friends anymore, no more “therapists’ who I no longer believe in at all. I feel for each of you making comments here. The pain of awful and I am sorry each of you have suffered that fate. As humans we all deserve better I think but we cannot control the Behaviours of others, only ourselves. I personally won’t be betraying my instincts again to believe in another therapist. Really when you think about it therapy is all about getting attached to someone who you pay and when the sessions end so does that connection. It’s like losing a loved one without any acknowledgment by the therapist of that loss.
MaryMay 4th, 2022 at 8:27 PM
Reading these comments is indeed comforting. I have been with my current therapist for several years. Sometimes it becomes rocky and that is mostly because I have difficulty communicating my deep feelings. I feel the power imbalance but it doesn’t bother me as much as it used to. I idolize her but sometimes her regular, all too human side comes out and I realize this is a somewhat business relationship. I pay, she listens and talks and suggests. I have never been able to get over the weirdness of the relationship. She is away for a month right now and I’m not ok with that. I wish that I could just enjoy what I have and not worry about it ending, as it seems it inevitably will.
BethMay 5th, 2022 at 3:51 PM
To Jo: Wow! 15 years…I feel for you. With my previous therapist it was 3 years but he had helped me through so much, helped me resolve a major life issue and helped to reconnect me with my brother who had traumatized me as a child(my brother finally apologized after about 52 years). Even though the therapeutic split was mutual it was really difficult and I grieved for a while. He recommended another therapist in the practice but she was not a good fit plus their offices were right across from each other and it was hard seeing him. After a few months I did find a wonderful therapist in another office and am still seeing her to this day. Not long after leaving the previous therapist I wrote him a letter thanking him for all he did and how much he helped me. I was hospitalized a few times and he always called me when I was in the hospital. I have no hard feelings.
I hope things work out for you and you are eventually able to move on. Take care.
AlexandraMay 8th, 2022 at 11:51 AM
I can understand your pain, and it would not be helpful if I either negated your decision-making or affirmed it. But something about your all or nothing feeling reminds me of both the ending of my therapeutic relationship and the defensive reactions I had to want to protect myself from any future endings with any other therapist or anyone else. In fact, that is a result of trauma and childhood abuse, as we know, and the hypersensitivity to protect oneself from getting hurt is a predictable outcome of such an upbringing or experience. Over time, I found my new therapist better than the last, but better…she understood and helped me process: transference, loss, boundaries, loyalty, etc. She also made it clear that every therapist is different and has slightly different views on an ever-tightening industry, where regulations are needed. I have been stalked and frankly would understand very well what the pressure must be like to be a therapist who is stalked by a client…and gaslit.
I am sure what I’m saying isn’t helpful to you now, but perhaps in time you’ll consider that idea that I have so hated…that we can learn to have good endings. I still am injured from the loss of my therapist in this way – my therapist cut me off. But I have compassion for this person’s life, too.
Take care of yourself – lots of self-soothing and self-care, and anger and upset is okay, too.
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