When and Why to Call 'Time' on Therapy

Medical Reviewer

Not all therapies come neatly packaged into a small number of weekly sessions, and not all of the more structured therapies suit every patient's needs. More open-ended talk therapies may be attractive for those wishing greater analysis, personal insight, and reflection on troubling issues. Whether in the short or longer term, all psychological therapies should come to an end.

Ideally, calling "time" on therapy comes about as an agreed strategy between client and therapist/ But this isn’t always the case.

Reasons to stop therapy

There are many different reasons why you might choose to call time on therapy, including:

  • Practical reasons, such as moving to a new area or starting a new job
  • Financial reasons
  • Treatment plans have been achieved
  • New or unresolved tension between you and your therapist
  • A sense of inertia or lack of progress
  • Ethical violations (e.g. confidentiality breaches, sexual advances)

Confusion and uncertainties

The therapeutic relationship comes with its own set of dynamics, and understanding the boundaries can sometimes be difficult. Extreme loyalty to a therapist, or confusion as to whether it is better to stay or go, are just two examples of how this difficulty can manifest itself.

Early on in treatment, while discussing treatment goals, it's a good idea to discuss with your therapist how you’d like therapy to end. Recognize, though, that during those early days, you may feel you're at your most vulnerable and are dependent on any advice the therapist might offer.

A good therapist will remind you that you are in charge of the process. You have to feel the benefits, otherwise there’s little point. Therapy is designed to empower you, so while the therapist may suggest things or even disagree with you, the ultimate power remains with you.

Calling "time"

Calling time on therapy doesn’t just rest on your shoulders. A good therapist will make clear at the outset that you are not bound to see him or her for weeks, months or longer. They should regularly revisit your therapy goals with you and assess the extent to which they have been achieved. In fact, a good therapist might suggest that you see another person if you feel no improvement after just a few sessions.

But if you are thinking of calling time on therapy, there are still some options to consider. First, if you’re uncertain as to whether leaving therapy is a good or bad thing for you, consider taking a break rather than simply stopping altogether. This leaves the door open and may be a useful time for you to reflect on your reasons for starting therapy, and whether it's helping. Secondly, explore your thinking with your therapist. He or she might not agree with your plans — but ultimately the decision rests with you.

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