In my monthly Topic Expert post at Good Therapy I wrote about ending therapy. I often consider this to be one of the most important part of the process. Some of the best work happens when people are saying goodbye. And it’s often a skipped part of treatment because most people hate saying goodbye.
All the Past Goodbyes in Ending Therapy
I know that it’s not a favorite for me. I definitely struggle with the discomfort that arises when someone I care about is leaving. I want to talk them out of it. I can get angry at them for no apparent reason. I can just feel really sad and wonder what was the point of ever getting to know them–was it worth this feeling of loss?
I’m highlighting some steps in the grief cycle (bargaining, anger, depression) because a goodbye is like a death. The person is gone. It may not be forever, but before the intellect gets involved and you start rationalizing your feelings we need to allow for some healthy expression of those irrational, uncomfortable, annoying feelings.
Ending therapy is a great place to do that because you don’t have to take care of the therapist. You can allow yourself to go through all your past goodbyes by letting your therapist know all of the feelings, the ones that make sense and the ones that don’t.
Avoidance and Goodbyes
Ghosting is a common word in dating, but we leave lots of situations without the goodbye process. I was reading about the “Irish Goodbye” for when you leave a party without telling anyone. Wow, when you think about it we have so many phrases for this thing we do to avoid the discomfort of leaving. There are movies and books about abandonment–it’s a core component about what brings people to therapy and what gets in the way of relationships.
Imagine if, for the important people in our lives, we didn’t wait until the end to say all we wanted to say. Yes, we’d have a lot less tearjerking films with death bed scenes, but we wouldn’t hold so much in. And the people in our life would know how we felt and we’d know how they felt about us. No more guessing. No more feelings “leaking” out unexpectedly.
That’d be something, wouldn’t it?
And you can practice this when you’re ending therapy. It’s worth it.
Let me know in the comments below what you think of the article and if it brings up any more questions.
Justin Lioi, LCSW is a men’s mental health and relationship expert. He practices counseling in Brooklyn, NY (and online throughout New York State and internationally.) He received his degree from New York University and has been working with men and their families for over 10 years. Justin is on the Board of the National Association of Social Workers and writes a weekly column for the Good Men Project called Unmasking Masculinity. He can be found on local and national podcasts talking about assertiveness, anger, self-compassion, all with the goal of becoming the man you want to be.