Coming to an end: A case study of an ambigous process of ending
Original versionCounselling and Psychotherapy Research. 2012, 12 (2), 109-117, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14733145.2011.608131
AbstractAim: When the duration of therapy is not preset and the outcome is a matter for negotiation, the decision to end psychotherapy will be an experiential concern for the two participants. This case study draws attention to how ambiguities may be settled in a process where ending is initiated by the therapist and resisted by the client. Method and analysis: The actual case was strategically selected as exceptional owing to a combination of circumstances. The client and the therapist had developed a ‘good enough’ alliance (WAI) and reached a ‘good enough’ outcome (OQ-45), and still the client felt she was far from finished. A close inspection of interactional data in sessions together with both clients' and therapists' reflections in post-therapy interviews elicited information about both substantial content and structural aspects of this complicated process of ending. Findings and discussion: The discrepancy between therapist and client was not addressed, but rather postponed and revisited again later. Structural elements like preparations for a break for vacations and reducing the frequency of sessions were used to test experiential qualities, such as how the client managed life without therapy. Carefully preserving a ‘good enough’ emotional bond through the negotiations seemed important to both parties. Significantly, the client's autonomy was interpreted as the final proof of improvement and the client came to a point where she could affirm that she had got better only by accepting that treatment was coming to an end.
This is an Author's Accepted Manuscript of an article published in Counselling and Psychotherapy Research: Linking research with practice, Copyright 2012 British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, available online