In sales terminology, the mantra of ‘ABC - Always be Closing’ is often used. This means that from the second the salesperson begins, they’re focussing on that end goal of making the sale. While it might seem cold and corporate, it’s actually quite similar to what counsellors do. We use the (less catchy) ‘always be working towards the ending’, but the principle is surprisingly similar.
As counsellors, from the moment we get a new referral, we’re thinking about how we can end our work with them. This isn’t because we’re keen to churn through as many clients as possible, but because our aim is to get each one to the point where they no longer need us and can face the world independently.
Endings help us to choose a goal
Thinking about ‘the ending’ is essential at all stages of the therapeutic process. As counsellors, if we get a complex case and know we have limited time, we may choose to focus on one specific goal with the client and work on that thoroughly, rather than try to tackle everything without reaching much depth. With a complex client like this, we could actually put them at risk if we tried to work on everything at once, as we could open up psychological wounds and trauma without enough time to help them heal.
For Mable Therapists, it’s not always easy to know when sessions will be ending as we’re continuously reviewing with parents how the work is going. For this reason, the counsellor will probably ask for a commitment to several more sessions rather than just one at a time. This way, they know that they have enough time to broach something with your child, and help them work through it safely. If sessions do end abruptly, it risks leaving the child to deal with these issues alone, without the counsellor’s support.
A good therapeutic ending can repair past damage
Think about the things that have caused you the most pain in your life, and ask yourself, did they end well? Perhaps it was a relationship break-up, a bereavement or losing a job. Whatever it was, it’s likely that the ending felt out of your control and there were things left unsaid. Whatever has brought your child to counselling, it’s likely that they’ve also had some difficult, or incomplete endings that have caused them distress. Their mental health difficulties may even be rooted in a fear of endings. Perhaps it’s a fear of dying or the death of a loved one, perhaps it’s a fear of moving school or even leaving the house. Any fear of change is essentially the fear that their life, as they know it, will end.
Sometimes Mable’s counsellors will have sessions with children and young people that go so well, that the parents see them quickly make progress. Sometimes so much so that we’ll get an email out of the blue thanking us for our work and telling us that the sessions are no longer needed. Other times, parents will feel that progress is not being made quickly enough, so they’ll put an end to the sessions. If the sessions stop without any notice, without the counsellor and child able to conclude their work and say goodbye, then the child is experiencing another difficult ending. Giving your child the chance to have a planned, structured ending, where they’re given the chance to discuss how they feel about it and leave nothing unsaid, will actually help to heal the traumatic endings of the past. To learn that not all endings need to be negative, is one of the most powerful gifts that counselling can give.
Positive endings can be empowering!
If your child is having counselling, it’s likely that they have negative feelings towards themselves. Maybe they have low self-esteem, are overly-critical or compare themselves to others. Completing the counselling process will help them to feel that they’ve accomplished something huge. Counsellors will usually earmark the last session to reflect on how far the child has come, go over the many successes they’ve had since beginning, and celebrate the completion of a really difficult process. It’s a vital stage in the counselling work and it’s so important that the child gets to experience that feeling of accomplishment. When counselling is cut short, it can be harder for them to see it as a rewarding process, much like if you stopped a marathon halfway through. The work may be hard, but crossing the finish line makes all the pain feel worth it.
If your child says they want to end
Sometimes parents will contact us to say their child has asked to end the counselling sessions. When this happens, it’s important we respect the child’s wishes and allow them to have control. However, it may be that the child is trying to avoid the counselling, perhaps because they’ve started to cover difficult subjects that are painful to discuss. Ending at this vital point could deprive them of the chance to work through this difficulty. If your child would like to end their sessions, it’s helpful to explore why. If they explain that the sessions have become difficult, encourage them to attend the next session, and give this feedback to their counsellor. If they still want to finish, encourage them to attend a final session, which will allow them to have that all-important ending. However, if attending the last session would be distressing for them, simply let the counsellor know that they won’t be attending. Let your child know that they can return to counselling at any point in the future, once they feel ready.
If you are considering ending your child’s counselling sessions, please speak to their counsellor so you can manage this ending together. The counsellor will not try to persuade you to continue sessions indefinitely, and by letting them know, they’ll be able to plan a positive ending with your child. By referring your child for counselling you’ve given them an amazing gift that will have lifelong benefits. Supporting the counsellor in giving your child a positive therapeutic ending, is the final piece of that puzzle.
If you have any questions, please get in touch with us and we'd be happy to talk it through.
Or if you know a child who would benefit from counselling, why not book in with one of our counselling team.