Over the years there has been considerable research into why people leave or stay in therapy. A recent study, where clients were interviewed about what influenced their decision to stay or leave therapy showed that they regularly reviewed their decision to stay. The three main influencing factors were the urgency of their need to change, how they felt about their therapist and if the process was moving them towards their goals for therapy. For many clients in the study, they were strongly influenced by the extent to which their therapist had been able to present them with a credible plan to resolve their problems.
When there is an unplanned or premature ending to therapy, it leaves a lot of questions for the therapist. I believe transparency is crucial, as is engaging with the client in where you are in reaching their goals and how they are feeling about the process and their progress. When the core conditions are in place for unconditional regard, empathy and congruence, there is the possibility to explore whether their feelings and needs are being meet or not, while challenging your own work to give each individual client the best of yourself.
Jacinta Bourke is a counsellor and psychotherapist operating in the Ealing W5 and surrounding areas. She is a member of BACP - the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy.