by Rabbi Yosef Cornfeld

There comes a time in every therapy relation when it is time to end.  It is not the purpose of therapy to continue forever, to be a permanent fixture of the person’s life.  Our purpose in providing therapeutic help is to empower the person to be able to deal with his problems by himself.  That is why our approach is to decline to give advice, to offer our own ideas on how to solve the problems at hand.  We ask curious questions that probe the person’s psyche in order to assist him into finding his own way out of the problem.  That way he becomes less dependent on us, and is able to take control of his life.

Often when someone is inquiring about starting therapy he will ask, “How long will this take? How many sessions? etc.”  This is not a question that is possible to answer with a specific answer.  Like everything else in the therapy, it very much depends on the person himself.  Our job is to help them to access their own strengths and abilities to enable them to find a way out of the problem on their own.  It works much better that way, and has a more lasting effect.

So the same thing applies to deciding on when it is time to end the therapeutic relationship.  The person will get to a point where they feel that they have gained enough from the Narrative process in order to be able to implement the changes on his own.  At that point it is our job to encourage them, give them strength, and bless them to go on their way.

Narrative tradition has a number of techniques for helping to make this ending a meaningful experience.  It can be seen as a kind of graduation, and a small “Commencement” ceremony, replete with diploma or certification printed up for the occasion could be helpful.  Friends or family could be invited, if so desired, and take part in the ceremony. Oftentimes we like to write a letter to the client as a kind of documentation of the therapy process, and give them things to think about as we send them on their way.

The main thing is that the ending should be a positive experience that reinforces all of the work and accomplishments during the course of the therapy, and will give them strength to put these changes into action.

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