Richard Friedman: How to Figure Out When Therapy Is Over

If you think it’s hard to end a relationship with a lover or spouse, try breaking up with your psychotherapist.

A writer friend of mine recently tried and found it surprisingly difficult. Several months after landing a book contract, she realized she was in trouble.

“I was completely paralyzed and couldn’t write,” she said, as I recall. “I had to do something right away, so I decided to get myself into psychotherapy.”

What began with a simple case of writer’s block turned into seven years of intensive therapy.

Over all, she found the therapy very helpful. She finished a second novel and felt that her relationship with her husband was stronger. When she broached the topic of ending treatment, her therapist strongly resisted, which upset the patient. “Why do I need therapy,” she wanted to know, “if I’m feeling good?”

Millions of Americans are in psychotherapy, and my friend’s experience brings up two related, perplexing questions. How do you know when you are healthy enough to say goodbye to your therapist? And how should a therapist handle it?

Read it all.


Posted in * Culture-Watch, Psychology

4 comments on “Richard Friedman: How to Figure Out When Therapy Is Over

  1. Wilfred says:

    Psychotherapy is long, drawn-out process, enormously expensive, and a not-very-effective way of treating mental illness. And the field is rife with crack-pot theories & mumbo-jumbo.

    Therapy can be beneficial, in the sense that, to treat your pneumonia, it would be beneficial for you to take 6 weeks off from work, fly to Hawaii, stay in a 5-star hotel, and lie on a warm beach. However, it is much more effective, and practical, just to take antibiotics.

    In the same way, new medications are much more effective at treating disorders of this sort, than becoming emotionally dependent on a “friend”, who will patiently listen to your problems for the rest of your life, for $200 an hour.

  2. East TN Susan says:

    Therapy is a boat go get you across the water. The boat consists of the therapist, the patient, and the process. Some boats move more quickly than others. Nevertheless, the goal is to get across the water, get out of the boat, and thrive on the healthier shore. Effective therapists understand that their role is almost always temporary and that they are facilitators. Bona fide counseling programs contain specific training on appropriate exit procedures.

  3. East TN Susan says:

    Sorry for typo; first sentence should read:
    Therapy is a boat to get you across the water.

  4. small "c" catholic says:

    I knew the woman mentioned in this article during the many years she was in analysis and was baffled by the fact that she put her life on hold for so much of her young adulthood. She’s a brilliant and kindhearted person, however, and eventually wrote a book, The Thief of Happiness, about her experience with this therapeutic relationship.