Life is full of change – One door closes and another one opens.
Sometimes we choose to change things in our lives but quite often change can be unexpected; the loss of a loved one, relationship break up or perhaps a redundancy or a terminal illness.
With change, comes loss – this makes me reflect on my recent work related transitions and the therapeutic relationships I have been a part of whilst working in further education (FE), that come to an end this week. I reflect on each unique encounter(s) I experienced focusing on the termination of counselling. I guess from the ‘beginning’ of each counselling relationship we work towards the ‘end’ and the process in-between requires great courage to face potentially unbearable feelings. It requires a willingness to be open and honest in order to reduce symptoms; depression, anxiety, anger, grief…
My endings with clients in FE mainly aged between 16 and 19, have been somewhat heart-warming and invaluable. I appreciate the importance of offering such support to young people through their transitional life stage; adolescence to early adulthood. I have been surprised by the high volume of students accessing and engaging in counselling, the thought of which also delights me knowing that the stigma around mental health has reduced.
All sorts of emotions arise as the end of counselling approaches – I noticed;
- A sense of relief – being free from the issues that bought students to counselling
- Worry about coping without the ‘safety net’ of a counsellor
- Sadness around the loss of the counselling relationship
- Gratitude that the counselling ‘worked’
- A sense of abandonment
- Excitement about the future – now seeing a light at the end of the tunnel!
So, a real mix of feelings! An invitation to explore these gave clients the experience of ending a relationship in a healthy way. Relationships often end abruptly or unpredictably, denying us from the opportunity to really express ourselves to the person concerned. Being left with unanswered questions can prolong a sense of closure. Such feelings can ‘resurface’ when counselling begins to end, so by allowing clients to express their feelings around the loss of counselling, in a safe therapeutic space can also encourage healing around previous grief.
How to fill the hour when therapy ends?
Creating a visual ‘tool box’, which includes new techniques/life changes made whilst in counselling can be useful. Some of these may include; Saying no, resting more, expressing feelings through writing/art, confiding in someone, mindfulness, trying new interests, practicing gratitude, listening to calming music, eliminating negativity, exercising, keeping a mood diary…)
Creating time to continue with these is important to consolidate change. It might help to diarise these until they become second nature.
Keeping a counselling journal can also help, perhaps once a week (or more!) write in it as if you are talking to your counsellor, write what you think the response would be…like my client said WWSS (What would Sukhi say!?)
Start to develop your OWN internal counsellor.