What is the best way to end the counseling relationship? A counselor’s hope is with the client in a better place and with a higher level of awareness. Of course we want to know that we made a difference, but that’s the tricky part of working with humans. We are all unique and results are measured differently. With one client a certain level of progress may not seem very significant, but with others that same type of progress may be just enough to leave a lasting effect. No matter how significant the results, terminating the counseling relationship is just as important as beginning it.
When meeting with a client, I like to be as proactive as possible. The more information my clients have the better, that way there are no surprises. Counseling is a very intimate relationship. People don’t generally put their whole selves along with their secrets on the table for all to see, so developing the counseling relationship is instrumental. Part of gaining trust comes with informed consent, making sure they know what to expect from you, and ending treatment in a respectful way. Carl Rogers theory, person-centered approach, is drilled into your counseling education for a reason. The three aspects Rogers believed are critical to the counseling relationship are unconditional positive regard, empathy, and genuineness. If your clients feel that you are present-engaged- participating- and you care, they are much more inclined to do the work. Get them started with an understanding that there will be an end within a timeline. This gives them a metaphorical carrot to chase; an outcome to look forward to. One caution – you can be a part of the journey without getting on the bus. Meaning, maintain your differentiation to prevent transference and countertransference. It takes practice, patience, and diligence to confront your own emotions after a difficult session. Be sure to take the time to meet with a supervisor or peer to process the session, your feelings and move through it. We must constantly take care of ourselves, spend too much time giving all you have to everyone else, and there is little left to work with. This work helps you and ultimately makes you a better counselor.
The interesting part of counseling is when your clients surprise you. Sometimes we can make termination such a big deal in our heads, and admittedly feel a bit disappointed when they are not nearly as bummed as we are to end the counseling relationship. Bottom line…Inform them, Rogers them, and give them a loose outline so they can take you on an incredible journey!
Transformation is an experience that few of us have a front row ticket to, get in that mosh pit, get engaged, and take it all in. It will change your life as well.