What is Finishing Therapy Anxiety?
Do you remember when you first started going to therapy? How nervous you were? How it felt very unnerving to even reach out to the therapist to begin with? And then the potential agaony (and relief) of attending a first session, and a second? It is just as normal to experience finishing therapy anxiety too. It’s actually a sign that therapy has helped AND that you value the experience you had when you feel some anxiety about terminating therapy.
Back in the beginning, you didn’t know what to expect out of this therapy experience, especially if it was the first time in your life participating in therapy. If you are like most people, it probably was anxiety inducing.
Now, you may have become so accustomed to your weekly therapy time that it may be hard for you to imagine the future when you aren’t going to therapy sessions any more. Seeing how beneficial it has been for you, you are probably worried that once you stop, all of your progress and growth will be retracted. As if you are starting back from square one just because your time in therapy is over. This is called finishing therapy anxiety and it is perfectly normal too.
The great thing about therapy, however, is that it isn’t a temporary solution or a quick fix. It is a process and long term solution that you can use what you learned for the rest of your life without a therapist OR better yet, you being your own therapists. But, if you are starting to feel anxious and worried about that (especially if you were getting therapy for anxiety) know that this is very common and healthy to experience finishing therapy anxiety.
Remember, anxiety, is normal. It’s a driving force to keep us motivated and present in our own lives. Anxiety only becomes an issue when it becomes so out of control and debilitating that it begins to affect different areas of your life and prevent you from living your life. Let’s go over some of the most common questions and concerns people have when they are getting ready to end the process of therapy.
Absolutely, the process of ending therapy doesn’t need to be done cold turkey like most people believe. Not everyone is comfortable with the idea of ending something so abruptly. If you are more comfortable with slowly cutting back on the amount of therapy sessions you attend, that is completely fine and up to you. This is where it is important to share your finishing therapy anxiety with your therapist so that together you can tackle this, like you have everything else in therapy.
For instance, if you were seeing a therapist regularly 4 times a month, cut down to 3 the following month. Followed by 2 and then 1. Or whatever fits best with your schedule. You can even ask to do regular follow up appointments every few months as a maintenance mechanism (kind of like ‘tune ups’).
You learn a lot during therapy, so it isn’t surprising to hear that this is something many people feel anxious over. After all, you want to be sure that the investment in yourself that you have made will continue to help you prosper long after your therapy sessions are over. You can actually view the finishing therapy anxiety as extra fuel to make sure that you continue to implement what you learned in therapy long after your sessions (with the therapist) have ended.
As you get closer to therapy ending, ask your therapist to do a review (sometimes this is called a ‘therapy blueprint’ Write the coping mechanism skills that you learned down. Ask for links or additional resources that you can access again. As a therapist, I am always really happy to hear of a client wanting to make sure they have resources after their time with me is done.
It is also a good idea to start having ‘self sessions’ before you end therapy. Learning how to actually have therapy sessions on your own will go a long way to reducing finishing therapy anxiety.
When I work with clients one of the last things we do together is create, what I like to call, ‘Emergency Instructions for a Bad Day AND Helpful Reminders For Everyday’. This is comprehensive review of what has been learned in therapy AND what you will continue to do for the rest of your life. Creating a review document or ‘best hits’ is a very powerful antidote to not only overcoming finishing therapy anxiety, but also towards growing even further confidence of your ability to keep taking care of yourself.
If I had a magic wand, i would use it to make sure that every single one of my clients would always be okay and never have an issue again. But, therapy can almost be seen as the prep work before the magic begins. This is why I like to call the first meeting a ‘test drive session’ and then if we agree to work together, it is like you are learning how to drive your car (life).
Then at the end of ‘lessons’ you get your license and that’s where the driving really begins. The same is true with therapy. Once you finish seeing a therapist is when you truly will have the opportunity to see how far you have come and how much you are able to take good care of yourself on your own. Life will always throw curveballs our way, but our work together will have ensured that you are prepared to dodge those in the healthiest way possible, while mustering up as much self support and joy for the ride too.
I don’t see you as another client who I want to keep forever. While I always want to be there for you and ready to support you as needed, my goal is to give you the tools and belief in yourself so that you won’t keep needing to go to therapy. That, for me, is what therapy is truly about, you learning to become your own therapist and then living your best most supportive life. In my opinion, good therapy ends. Part of a good ending in therapy is creating a ‘relapse prevention plan’ so that you now how to implement what you learned moving forward.
So remember, finishing therapy anxiety is normal and par for the course. BUT this is temporary and as you get on and keep living your life and working the tools you learned in therapy, you will grow in confidence and you will keep growing your whole life long. Learn more about anxiety treatment by clicking HERE. Please feel free to contact me at my Honolulu or London clinic to set up an Anxiety Treatment Test Drive.
I am a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Hawaii and an Accredited CBT Therapist and Psychotherapist in the UK with over 16 years of experience. My specialties are: Therapy For Gay Men, Life Coaching for Anxiety, Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Compassion Focused Therapy.