Deciding to terminate therapy

Ending therapy can be anxiety-provoking and feel like a scary conversation to have with their therapist for many patients. People may have many worries about terminating therapy, such as whether they’ve developed enough skills to go out on their own, whether the therapist will be offended, or what they will do if their symptoms come back in the future.

Because of these worries, patients become uncertain whether they should end therapy; and if they are – how to go about it.

Although terminating therapy can be a daunting decision, the process can actually be very helpful and productive. For example:

1. Ending therapy gives you the chance to take the skills you have learned in therapy to become your own therapist and not rely on your current therapist as a crutch.

2. It allows you to work with your therapist to decide on other potential treatment avenues if this particular therapy isn’t working (your therapist will not be offended!).

3. Formal termination allows you and your therapist to come up with a plan to make sure that you keep your gains and continue progressing in the areas you wish to work on.

Below, I provide a few instances that may come up during therapy where it may be helpful to consider whether it is beneficial to discontinue treatment. I also provide a few tips on getting the most out of treatment completion.

You have developed important clinical skills and reached your goals

The most obvious reason for ending therapy is simply because you do not need it anymore. You’ve developed the tools needed to manage your symptoms and you have reached your therapy goals.

For certain therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, the main goal of therapy is to make you your own therapist. Therefore, the therapist will also likely bring up that terminating treatment at this time is ideal to allow you to grow into your own ideal clinician.

Deciding to formally terminate therapy will also allow the therapist a chance to discuss with you a plan of action to make sure that you continue moving towards your goals. This can be helpful to summarize important learning points and decide whether further resources are needed to properly support you on your journey.

You do not feel therapy is helping

In this case, I would personally recommend bringing this up with therapy and letting your therapist know that the sessions have not been doing well. Again, it’s important to realize that your therapist will not be offended and will be able to work with you to determine the best path moving forward.

In certain instances, you may decide to continue therapy with this particular therapist because the discussion went well and feels right to simply make some amendments in therapy. In other cases, the therapist may provide recommendations to try out different treatments or work with another clinician.

Either way, openness and transparency with your therapist will always be beneficial.

It feels like you are using the therapy as a crutch

There’s a saying that we therapists like to use: “collaborate, but don’t collude”.

If you find that the sessions are now a way to avoid taking on the world alone (and relying on your therapist a bit too much), then it may be time have a conversation with your therapist about this issue.

It’s also important remember that terminating therapy doesn’t mean that you will never talk to your therapist again. It is possible to set up booster sessions (an occasional periodic session to check-in and make sure everything is going well) so you do not feel completely on your own.

There’s less to talk about these days

When you and your therapist do not seem to have as much to talk about, this could be a sign that therapy has run its course. Most challenges in your daily life have been resolved or they are within your capacity to handle without therapeutic intervention.

Tips for ending therapy

1. Be honest and transparent. Some patients prefer to cut and run when it comes to therapy and simply stop attending appointments. However, I believe that being open with your therapist about your desires to discontinue therapy can be helpful in many ways. The therapist will not try to rope you back into treatment if it is not something you want. Moreover, you and the therapist will be able to 1) plan for the future 2) get additional resources as necessary, and 3) open up conversations to come to therapy in the future if this is ever needed.

2. Keep a professional relationship with the therapist. There are times when the patient (and therapist) enjoys the other person’s personality on a more friendly level. The patient may want to keep in close contact with the therapist as a potential acquaintance/friend. This is an ethical grey area and it is not recommended because the patient may one day want to resume treatment with the therapist. However, if a friendship is developed, then an issue of multiple role relationships will occur (and the therapist may not be able to see the patient again).

3. Gift-giving token appreciations. Therapists are not allowed to accept gifts of more than token value. If you would like to provide the therapist a gift of appreciation, I would consider something small like a card or a pen. It’s the thought that counts!


I hope this post was helpful in clarifying some anxiety about ending therapy! If you found this useful, please consider subscribing to the mailing list for more evidence-based information on mental health!

If interested, see below a couple posts that may be helpful for people who are interested in pursuing therapy.

Best wishes,