Part of my anxiety when I was job searching had to do with therapy. How will I pull it off when I have to work a 9 to 5 office job? Which then led me to the thought: Is it time to take a break? How would I know when that time comes? Other people around me are clearly crazy and they aren’t spending their lunch hour in therapy.
Alas, I decided my graduation day is off in the far distance because I still always leave my therapist’s office feeling about 10 pounds lighter and equipped with an arsenal of power tools with which to treat my negative intrusive thoughts.
In my life, and maybe in yours, it always tempting to end therapy exactly when you need as part of your recovery plan, especially during a huge transition, like going to work for someone after 15 years of calling your own shots.
Thus, I thought I’d reprint this helpful passage from a Johns Hopkins Health Alert I just received. Published by the doctors of the John Hopkins Mood Disorders Clinic, they contain, at least in my estimation, the best advice you are going to get on the internet. If you want to subscribe, you can find out more information here.
Most people think of psychotherapy simply as counseling. In fact, the term psychotherapy is used to describe a variety of different talk therapies that treat emotional, behavioral, personality, and psychiatric disorders. Psychotherapy involves a commitment to a series of appointments with a licensed mental health professional, enabling a relationship to form between the therapist and the individual.
If you’ve been in psychotherapy for some time, how do you know when your treatment is completed and you no longer need to see your therapist?
This is something that you and your therapist should decide together. Some types of therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral or interpersonal therapy, are meant to be time limited; you and your therapist will set goals that can be achieved over a few months. When you’ve reached these goals and are generally feeling better, it’s probably time to stop therapy sessions.
Knowing when to say goodbye is tougher with more open-ended types of therapy such as psychodynamic therapy, which delves more deeply into how your past is affecting your present. This treatment doesn’t have a timetable for completion, and measuring goals is more subjective. But it seems logical to stop once you feel better, have resolved your major issues, and feel like your life and relationships have improved.
As with antidepressant medications, it’s not a good idea to quit therapy abruptly or without discussing it with your therapist. Some therapists find it best to taper off slowly, perhaps decreasing sessions from weekly to biweekly, then to monthly, and finally to telephone check-ins as needed. Of course, if you haven’t seen any improvement after six months, it’s probably time to consider a different type of therapy or medication or a change in therapist.