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Termination refers to the process of ending counseling between a counselor and a client. The ending phase or stage in a counseling process is as potentially crucial to the growth and development of an individual or a group as is the beginning phase. It may seem contradictory to suggest that termination is a significant part of an individual or group’s development. However, development in human potential terms implies growth, and the ability of the individual to cope with, accept, and effectively explore the ending of significant relationships is a higher order of an individual or group development. The dynamics of the process of termination, though, need not to be limited to an exploration of the termination of relationship. To do so would restrict growth. Termination is more than an act of signifying the end of therapy; it is an integral part of the process of therapy and, if properly understood and managed, may be an important factor in the instigation of change. Termination, then, is a part of a vital process (Gladding, 2000). It is an ending, but that ending can become a beginning.
The termination of counseling is often an inadequately handled process. An ineffective termination process can weaken the counseling gains, however, well-carried out termination have the potential to strengthen a clients behavior. Mutual agreement to terminate, regardless of who initiates the process, is often described as the ideal approach to termination. On the other hand, termination is appropriate when the counselor and counselee recognize that the major goal of counseling have been reached, and the behavior targeted by the counseling is achieved and occurs enough to be reinforced by naturally occurring consequences in the environment. A counselor should also discuss the process with the client at the beginning of counseling and inform him that he will be expected to initiate termination. There are a number of behaviors that may signal the onset of the termination stage, other than direct verbal statements of intent by clients. Among them are the missed appointments, apathy, and regression to earlier and less mature behavior patterns. If the client increasingly engages in some of these behaviors but does not verbalize a desire for termination, it may be necessary for the counselor to initiate the process.
Restructuring the counseling process toward termination often begins with a shift to a goal assessment focus. Evaluating progress often begins with listing and measuring changes that the client has made. The client can be encouraged to explore feelings that arise during the termination process, especially those of loss, grief, abandonment, and related issues. The counselor needs to emphasize the fact that although it may be easy and somewhat natural to avoid and deny such feelings, they are very important for the successful completion of counseling. Therefore, the client should focus on, express, and even dramatize such feelings during termination.
It is in any case necessary for the counselor to guide the appropriate working through of both task and relationship issues of termination. After the subject has been initiated, it is necessary that the counseling process be restructured to focus on issues of the evaluation and assessment of counseling progress and, therefore, on client readiness for termination. Sophisticated view recognizes the importance of clinical judgment of client readiness to end the treatment process. Variables such as working through the end of the client-counselor relationship, feelings of grief and sorrow, and learning how to handle endings are productively important, but difficult to be anticipated by clients early in the counseling process. Some of the areas useful for evaluating client’s readiness to leave counseling are: the initial problems of the client, whether it has been reduced or eliminated, determining whether the strains that motivated the client to seek counseling has dissipated, increases in the capacity to enjoy life, abilities to plan and work productively, strengthen the level and understanding and valuing self and others; and assessing increased in coping ability of the client (Patterson, Delaney, Welfel and Eisenberg, 2000). Another important area is the extent to which the client comes to feel confident to continue to live effectively without counseling.
Gladding, S. (2000). Counseling: A Comprehensive Profession. (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall
Patterson L., Delaney, D., Welfel, E., & Eisenberg, S. (2000). The Counseling Process. Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole