When the Therapist Leaves: A Personal Account of an Unusual Termination

When the Therapist Leaves: A Personal Account of an Unusual Termination

by Amy Urdang

A psychotherapist explores client-therapist boundaries and termination issues in a particularly intensive course of therapy.
Often when we present a case, we present only the best of ourselves, or only those aspects that we feel confident will not be questioned. And sometimes we hide in the theoretical aspects of a case, rather than exposing ourselves more. I have always found our work to be more engaging, richer and more useful when we share not only the content of our cases, but what goes on inside ourselves. And so I have tried to be very open and honest about my own process, rather than hiding it, and hope that the material will generate valuable thought and reflection.
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Amy UrdangAmy Urdang, MA, LCPC made a hard choice between pursuing horticulture or becoming a therapist and figured her back would give out before her mind would. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor currently working in Baltimore, Maryland and formerly practiced as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in California. After Graduate School at John F. Kennedy University, she devoted herself for many years to the Existential-Humanistic work of Jim Bugental, as well as to in an intense study of the Enneagram with Helen Palmer and has a deep trust in the relationship between meditation and therapy. She is currently a candidate at the Baltimore Washington Center for Psychoanalysis. She can be reached at 410-889-0800 or through her website in the therapist section www.psychologytoday.com.
Best description on how l feel.about my therapist. Thank you for being so brave and write this account. God bless you both.
thank you for such a thoughtful article
Sarah Gamble, Ph.D.
Thank you for sharing this incredible story and for including so much of your own process as a therapist. It is difficult to be vulnerable as a therapist and I think so many feel that it is so important not to share a part of ourselves with our clients. How you shared a part of yourself with Louise was so incredibly beautiful! I am truly inspired.
Jasmine Narayan, PsyD
The termination process you have described so clearly and descriptively, is very healing for me as a client to read. I have been in therpay almost three years now, and once in a while I start to think about termination and what that process will look like. Yes, I am afraid of it. I am afraid because my therapist has been a safe place for me, and through great effort we have built a trusting relationship. I ask how termination will be, but my therapist doesn't really give me a description I can understand. He does give me assurance that the process will be safe, at the speed I need it to be, and adjustable as far as phasing out gradually. I was also inspired by your clien'ts ideas to help her process the termination. All of these feelings are so very real now to me, except anger. That's the hardest one... I appreciate both viewpoints shared here, and would love to read about other therapy topics from both viewpoints. These resources help me to really know that other people sometimes feel the same way I do, meaning I am not crazy afterall. After all of this I still beleive that my little girl will always love my therapist and think of him as the father she never had. I am just wondering if your client's little girl will also love you, too...
Jackie, a client
Thank you for your courage, Amy, to put into writing where many of us have been.
Tamara G. Suttle, M.Ed., LPC
I want to say how deeply moved I am by your work with this client and your honesty about the process you went through in being her therapist and in creating a good ending for her. Twas lovely to read Louise's perspective on her therapy, 'The immobile silence I fell into in your office was the only way I could describe how I felt'. Your courage to sit with that silence and work with it. I'm touched by Louise's deep wisdom in making three requests of you, which would support her when you were gone. Thank you both for being so real about your experience. This article has inspired me and reminded me of why I love this work.
Katherine Norris, Psychotherapist
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CE credits: 1
Learning objectives:

  • Increase awareness of how therapy affects the psychotherapist.
  • Explore the value of using therapist countertransference and self-reflection in relation to termination.
  • Stimulate creative thought about what it means to connect and provide therapeutic safety in psychotherapy.
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