Negotiating ending: A qualitative study of the process of ending psychotherapy
Objectives: When psychotherapy is open-ended, the question of termination is a matter for negotiation. A model based on both content and the process of ending may explain how ‘good enough’ psychotherapies can be brought to ‘good enough’ endings.
Design: Twelve processes of ending were explored through a combination of audio recordings made during therapy sessions and post-therapy interviews with clients and therapists. Therapies had been tailored to the needs of the clients and were based on a broad spectrum of theoretical affiliations.
Methods: A procedure for systematic text condensation was used on a case-by-case basis. Issues surrounding the initiation and negotiation of ending were pointed out in each case and were then compared across cases.
Results: The initiation of ending and exchanges concerned with when and how to end therapy unfolded as a concerted process because both parties seemed to be aware that the theme of ending contained a potential challenge to the alliance. Dual affect regulation, implicit communication and a future-oriented perspective were important features. Structural elements such as schedule changes and temporary breaks served several psychological functions. Therapies seemed to reach ‘good enough’ endings when the client and therapist joined in their efforts to resolve basic ambivalences embedded in the decision to terminate contact with the affirmation of a continuing emotional bond.
European Journal of Psychotherapy and Counselling, 2013, 15 (3), 274 - 295