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Johns Hopkins Health Alert

Knowing When It’s Time to End Therapy

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Most people think of psychotherapy simply as counseling. In fact, the term psychotherapy is used to describe a variety of different talk therapies that treat emotional, behavioral, personality, and psychiatric disorders. Psychotherapy involves a commitment to a series of appointments with a licensed mental health professional, enabling a relationship to form between the therapist and the individual.

If you’ve been in psychotherapy for some time, how do you know when your treatment is completed and you no longer need to see your therapist?

This is something that you and your therapist should decide together. Some types of therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral or interpersonal therapy, are meant to be time limited; you and your therapist will set goals that can be achieved over a few months. When you've reached these goals and are generally feeling better, it's probably time to stop therapy sessions.

Knowing when to say goodbye is tougher with more open-ended types of therapy such as psychodynamic therapy, which delves more deeply into how your past is affecting your present. This treatment doesn't have a timetable for completion, and measuring goals is more subjective. But it seems logical to stop once you feel better, have resolved your major issues, and feel like your life and relationships have improved.

As with antidepressant medications, it's not a good idea to quit therapy abruptly or without discussing it with your therapist. Some therapists find it best to taper off slowly, perhaps decreasing sessions from weekly to biweekly, then to monthly, and finally to telephone check-ins as needed. Of course, if you haven't seen any improvement after six months, it's probably time to consider a different type of therapy or medication or a change in therapist.

Posted in Depression and Anxiety on August 10, 2010
Reviewed January 2011


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Health Alerts registered users may post comments and share experiences here at their own discretion. We regret that questions on individual health concerns to the Johns Hopkins editors cannot be answered in this space.

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