Sounds strange at first doesn’t it? Counseling is full of paradoxes. I value the amazing capacity of even tiny humans so much that I attended graduate school plus the road to licensure. And families invest significant effort to simply schedule amidst other needs and responsibilities. (Not to mention time spent completing the intake paperwork!) So if we all worked hard to build these relationships, then why in the world would I love saying goodbye?
Both bookends shape therapy’s effectiveness. Great counselors make the intake process intentional to start on the “right foot” with new clients. I want clients to know what to expect from me in the beginning (see that section on my FAQ page here) because therapy hinges on a close, trusting, yet professional relationship. And therapy is a process, so wrapping up is like the other bookend. Integrating a cohesive story about the overall process seals the deal on what people take away. (I feel another post brewing, more on integration later.)
It’s a rare chance. How many opportunities do we have for a positive, planned goodbye? I can only think of a few others for children; the end of a school year with a favorite teacher was a standout in my childhood.
I'm able to genuinely model sturdiness. I demonstrate some ways to handle bittersweet and sad times. I hope this modeling expands families’ possible expressions of those feelings. Again, kids may have few opportunities or models for goodbyes other than toxic positivity.
Goodbyes are enlightening! When time has run out, either in the last few sessions we planned or at the doorway after a sudden final meeting, emotions teach even more about the relationship. The time together was precious. It mattered. Our connection is significant.
Of course I miss former clients after they’ve “graduated” or when I made a job change. To all of my former clients and those yet to come: You are capable & you won’t need my help forever. Besides, your therapy progress lasts long after goodbye.
Disclaimer: The above information is intended to provide a general overview of mental health topics and child development. This information is not a replacement for professional psychotherapy or diagnosis. Seek consultation from a licensed professional for personalized treatment planning.