Someone asked me to write about endings, so here it is.
There are several types of endings I’ve been through since I started seeing clients:
The ones where clients stop coming without notice and don’t respond to any contact
The ones where clients call (or text) and tell you they aren’t coming
The ones where clients come and ‘out of the blue’ tell you in session that this is their last session
The ones where you and the client plan for an ending together.
Putting aside the ones where you don’t see a client to plan, this is how I have experienced endings in the past.
When a client reaches a point where either they express a desire to end (or spread out sessions), or I notice that they seem to be heading towards this, I tend to point out that something has changed, and ask them how they feel about lessening or ending sessions. I often find that clients are surprised when I suggest that they can move to fortnightly (and then monthly) sessions rather than just ‘leaving’ and so far, I haven’t had a client say they would rather just stop – there is a certain safety net in ending more slowly and seeing how it feels to extend time without seeing your counsellor. I recognise that not all placements allow this however (I believe that my formal placement – as opposed to my own service – runs in this manner, although I’ve never tested it).
In that last session, it can feel odd – what do you do? How do you keep it person centered?
For me, I let the client run the session where I can. If I am at one placement I have to go through some paperwork. I get that completed at the start of the session, and then I let it go pretty much as a normal session in all honesty. I might ask a client how they are feeling about ending and explore that with them, but it’s unlikely to be the first time it’s come up – I would probably feeling a bit remiss I’ve got to an end session with a client and HAVEN’T talked about endings.Once my clients understand what is available from me in future if needed I am happy for them to direct the session as normal. As however they want to have the session. Is there something specific? No. For me it’s about making sure the client is ok in the last 50 minutes. I’ve had clients come in their last hour who obviously didn’t feel they *needed* to come, but wanted to. I’ve had clients come and say ‘I haven’t mentioned this BIG thing before, but I just want someone to know it: (XYZ)’, and then once I’m told, I become almost the ‘holder’ of that thing, and they feel they have achieved what they need. In my own placement, I let clients know that if they want to come back, they just need to contact me and I will put them on the waiting list (or offer them a space if there is one), and in my other placement, I explain what the procedure is (there is a period of time clients must wait before they can go back on the waiting list, but in that time the associated helpline is accessible).
There’s no real ‘one way’ to do it, and it’s more about staying true to each of my client relationships, than any particular ‘person-centered’ process. Do what feels right 🙂