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Therapy: Does It Ever End?

When it comes to therapy, when is it enough?
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How Long Is Long Enough? continued...

But even long-term therapy usually comes to an end, whether that takes a year, or two, or more. If you and your therapist have a good relationship, deciding to end it is not a one-way street -- on either end. "This isn't something either person should decide on his own," says Norman Rosenthal, MD, clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University in Washington, and author of The Emotional Revolution: How the New Science of Feeling Can Transform Your Life. "It's a decision that's made in collaboration."

If you're thinking of leaving therapy, says Rosenthal, ask yourself why: Are you not getting much out of it anymore? Or, on the other hand, have you accomplished what you set out to do? Do you feel that the world and your relationships in it will be manageable on your own? "The messages will come from within," says Rosenthal. "Listen to them."

What Is a Good Therapist?

A good therapist should listen to those messages, too, says Rosenthal, who asks his own questions when a patient says he wants to leave: Is this a sign of healthy independence? Has the person sorted out the major issues that brought him to me?

"Good therapists are results oriented," says Rosenthal. "Therapy has to be more than just hand holding."

Ending the relationship doesn't have to be abrupt, says Rosenthal. If you've been going once a week, taper off to every other week, then perhaps to once a month. You and your therapist can agree on the length of time this transition period should last.

"I don't make a big deal out of termination," says Rosenthal. "Patients come in, they deal with their issues, and then they move on. If other issues arise sometime later on, they can always come back then."

What if you think you need more therapy but this therapy, or therapist, just isn't cutting it anymore? That happens too, Tuzman tells WebMD. "If you're not making the changes you were hoping to make, you might need to see someone else." That doesn't mean you should leave in a huff though. If something's bothering you about your therapist, tell him.

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