Are you ready to say good-bye to therapy? How do you know? When is it time for therapy to end?
As a therapist, I always want to help my client achieve their goals. When I was in therapy, before I became a therapist, I always felt awkward trying to say good bye to my therapist. Sometimes, it just felt easier to ghost my therapist. Believe it or not, that is not the best way to go.
Staying in therapy is not about how much time you have been there. Some people stay in therapy for years, while others find therapy is only needed for a few months. There is no correct time to be in therapy.
Let’s start with what brought you to therapy to begin with? Look at the goals you created for yourself. Who were you when you began therapy? Are you living in the preferred version of your life? How have you changed?
Talk with your therapist. It is ok to check in regularly about your goals and intentions for therapy. If there is something that is in the preferred version of your life that you are not living, tell your therapist! In fact, set a regular time frame to check in with your therapist on your goals. Goals change as does the preferred version of your life. Perhaps set a plan to audit your work together every 3 months.
When you are ready, ask your therapist to meet every other week. On your week off, experience what it is like to not have therapy. Then, do a once a month check-in or consultation.
Leaving your therapist on a good note helps you practice saying good bye and also leaves the door open to return to that therapist if you need consultation in the future.
Remember, therapy is your time to get what you need. You decide when it begins and when it ends.
As I sit here recovering from the last argument with my husband, I'm reminded that fights are inevitable. I love my husband dearly and sometimes we just can't agree. That's ok! Before we got married we worked through The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John M. Gottman, Ph.D. and Nan Silver to "divorce-proof" our relationship.
Their work, in something they call "the marriage lab," discusses "four horsemen" that lead to the demise of relationships. They do not come in any particular order and just because these exist in your relationship right now does not mean that you will break up. The point is to become aware of their existence and shift the power of each horseman.
1. Criticism - Do you know the difference between a complaint and a criticism? How do you voice what you need from your partner? A complaint addresses a singular event or action with which you have a problem, as in "I'm really upset you didn't use a coaster because now there is a ring on our wood table." A criticism, however, attacks the core being of another person, even in something that may seem trivial and suddenly gains more significance than it deserves, as in "I'm really upset that you did not use a coaster. You are always so lazy! Now we have a ring on the wood table forever. Why don't you care? You never care about my things! We can never get nice things?"
2. Contempt - Contempt includes sarcasm, name calling, eye-rolling, sneering, mockery, hostile humor, and cynicism. Contempt does not include repairs. Repairs occur in the middle of an argument when one partner tries to make the other laugh to relieve some of the stress of the situation. Contempt, on the other hand, tells your partner that you are disgusted with him or her, ultimately leading to more conflict rather than the possibility of resolution.
3. Defensiveness - Defensiveness usually arrives in response to an attacking partner. However, it does not achieve the desired effect since it unintentionally blames the partner for the problem--it doesn't end the conflict, it only increases it.
4. Stonewalling - When the listener tunes out and shuts down when the speaker is talking. In any conversation, the listener gives the cues on whether they were listening or paying attention. Usually, this horseman arrives after the other three become too overwhelming. When the listener starts stonewalling, not listening and not interested, leading to more conflict. Ultimately, it leads to more conflict.
When identifying the horsemen in your relationship, make it a game rather than an accusatory experience. Helping yourself notice these moments as much as you help your partner. Make a chart that helps both partners in the relationship identify when each of you let the horseman take over. Make sure you allow each partner to identify their own moments and honor them for making this acknowledgement.
I thoroughly recommend reading this book as it has helpful tips to promote and strengthen any relationship.
A blog about art therapy, EMDR, mindfulness, couples relationship, and anything else that might be an interesting thing to share.
Sara Hulan, MA, Marriage and Family Therapist Registered Associate IMF #97806,