She was bright and had a very intuitive sense of the people that she worked with. It was refreshing to hear her perspective on things that occurred in the counseling sessions. She was a model student, considering everything that she learned from me, her instructors, and the other clinicians she worked with.
Saying goodbye to her reminded me of the difficult experience which counseling termination can be. It can be very frightening for you and the person being served. As professionals, we have to recognize when termination is the appropriate course of action and when to allow the relationship to continue.
In my experience, people that I work with either agree with the timing of termination, or they have anxiety that comes up for them when it is discussed. When this occurs, we can then process the feelings of anxiety and develop a plan for whatever comes up.
Often, the anxiety about termination will cause a setback that is crisis oriented. If you suspect that this may occur, you can raise that possibility with the person. Usually, once the issue has been discussed in the light of day, the person recognizes that tendency and will avoid it.
If a setback does occur, it deserves a fair amount of attention. This indicates the person you are working with has a lack of confidence in their own ability to work things through. In this case, you are responsible to assist them in building that up rather than allowing them to be dependent on you.
We all like to feel valued and needed, but we have to sort out our own needs about keeping people in counseling beyond their maximum benefit. To do this, we have to recognize it in ourselves first!
So, as I said goodbye to my student, I was sad, but I also knew that she had a better chance of growing further without me. I can’t tell you how satisfying that realization was!
If you can relate to this experience, leave me a comment. I’d love to hear how you handle termination in counseling.