One thing I learned when I was a graduate student is that my job as a therapist is to work myself out of a job. By that I mean it is my hope that I can provide the necessary tools for healing and growth so that the individuals I meet with are able to go out on their own and live healthy, full lives despite past trauma, anxiety, depression, or other mental health struggles. Of course, this is a process that takes time. Sometimes therapy is short-term and other times it may be longer term (i.e., years or a lifetime). There is always value in therapy, no matter what the diagnosis or struggle in life may be. However, it is healthy to know when therapy may be over rather than becoming dependent on a therapist.
Going into the real world without the anchor of a good therapist can feel scary, especially when there has been a lengthy period of time and a lot addressed. However, moving on is a really great thing, because it usually means there has been healing and growth. Some ways to know if you are ready to end therapy might look like:
*All goals have been reached. In therapy it is important to set goals to have a direction to aim for. These may shift and change over time but are a good starting point. When all goals have been met and there are no further ones to work on, it is usually time to end therapy.
*You have gained all the necessary tools to be able to function in a healthy way on your own. It is important to have tools, whether they be specific coping skills or other resources (i.e, books, helpful diagrams, or illustrations, exercises to try, etc.).
*When therapy sessions become more about venting than about finding ways to cope, grow or heal. While therapy is a safe place to vent and it is often necessary, it can turn more into complaining rather than working through the reasons one came to therapy in the first place. Venting only can also be a tactic for avoiding dealing with any major issues or struggles.
The wonderful thing about therapy is that the door is always open to return. It can be challenging and brave to come to therapy. It is the hope that therapy is a safe place to help people process their pain, struggles, fears, and other areas of challenge in life. Just like life ebbs and flows, so too does the process of therapy. It is encouraging and a good thing when there is so much growth and healing that the therapist is no longer needed.