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Coming to terms: Client subjective experience of ending psychotherapy

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How do clients consider their own contribution and that of their therapist in the last phase of therapy when they are moving toward the end? Thirty-seven clients who had received therapy from highly experienced clinicians were interviewed. Since the time for ending had not been decided at the onset, clients in both short- and long-term therapies were included. Thematic case-by-case analyses were carried out. Clients actively engaged in looking back and looking ahead, as means of reflecting on their capability to handle issues on their own. The majority of clients were satisfied with what they perceived as a reciprocal engagement that enabled them to come to terms with emotionally charged issues in life and in therapy. For some clients unresolved issues remained: wondering whether a therapist with another approach could have helped more; feeling pushed away by the therapist; having to take the lead in ending therapy; the fear of being an “unworthy” client; or wanting to end without the therapist’s approval. Coming to terms with the ending of therapy was highly personally meaningful and loaded with affective tensions, in ways that were not always shared with their therapist.
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Keywords: client perspective; psychotherapy process; qualitative method; subjective experiences; termination

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Psychology, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway

Publication date: April 3, 2018

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