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Forced-termination is termination of the counseling relationship before the work of therapy has been fully accomplished. This will be the most common type of termination that you will face as a Masters student. As a counselor in training, your clients are individuals who have typically been seeing someone else. You are given what you could call a rotation during which you take over as their counselor, and upon your departure, the individual is transitioned back to his or her regular therapist. In some situations, you may meet with clients who are not receiving services because there are simply not enough professionals to offer service to meet the needs of the site. In these situations, transition may not always be possible.

Anticipated Reactions:
Clients typically feel anger toward the counselor, perceiving the end of the counseling relationship as abandonment. This may occur even if you make termination a topic of conversation throughout your counseling sessions. It is most likely to occur if you do not mention termination until very close to your intended departure from the relationship. Clients may feel anxious at the thought of having to handle things on their own without the support they have found in your relationship. Other reactions from clients might include sadness at losing a relationship upon which they have come to depend, or indifference at the end of the relationship. These emotions are oftentimes easier or more comfortable to express that anger or separation anxiety. Always keep in mind that how other relationships in the client's past have ended will very likely affect his or her reaction to the end of your counseling relationship. Unresolved issues surrounding past relationships can be played out in the termination process, but if you handle the process ethically, sensitively, and honestly, you are in a wonderful position to provide your client with a healthy end to a productive relationship that they can look back on positively and feel comfortable with.
Counselors also experience many emotions when forced-termination occurs. Guilt is a very common emotion for counselors to feel when they initiate the termination stage. Forced-termination, by its very definition, means that the counseling relationship is ending prematurely. After spending so much time encouraging your client to be trusting, open and honest, one must now abruptly sever that connection. This can leave counselors feeling as though they are abandoning their clients just as good progress could have been made, and can lead to a sense of feeling responsible for whatever might happen to the client as a result of the end of the relationship. For many counselors, a sense of frustration exists at not having "finished the job" or achieved the goals set out by the counselor and client. Counselors-in-training often struggle with a sense of omnipotence, or the feeling that they are the only one who can understand or help the client. On the other hand, it is normal to feel a sense of impotence, or the feeling that the relationship was not at all helpful to the client and that the client will be helped more effectively by a different therapist. When working with a client for only a short period of time, it can be difficult to see if any progress was made, especially if the client is not communicating any improvements to the counselor. In such cases, it is important for counselors to work to become comfortable with that feeling of "not knowing." It may not be for some time that a client himself realizes if and how a counselor has been of help. And as a counselor, you may never know. Counselors may feel a sense of loss and sadness at not being able to see their clients anymore, and other may feel a sense of relief. This relief often leads to guilt about being glad to move on from the counseling situation. It is very important to acknowledge your own feelings as you proceed through the termination stage of counseling.

Client-Initiated Termination

Client-Initiated Termination can occur in a number of situations. A client may initiate termination when it is determined that the goals that he or she set out to accomplish have been adequately met, or when he or she feels that problematic symptoms have been reduced or eliminated. If the counselor agrees that goals have been met and the timing for termination is appropriate, termination can be a comfortable, pleasing experience for all involved. There may still be a sense of loss at not seeing the client on a regular basis, but this is often outweighed by a sense of happiness in knowing that the relationship was positive and productive and helped the client make progress.

Anticipated Reactions:
In some cases, clients may initiate termination of the relationship if they do not feel comfortable with the counselor or do not feel that they are ready to fully engage in the counseling process. In such cases, counselors often feel a sense of insecurity in their ability to effectively connect with and counsel clients, guilt about "losing a client", and possibly relief at being rid of a relationship that they were uncomfortable with. In this case, it is very important for counselors to process their own feelings about the end of the relationship and how it might affect future interactions with clients.

Counselor-Initiated Termination

Counselor-Initiated Termination can occur when the counselor sees that the client has made progress toward achieving goals, notices a reduction in or elimination of symptoms, sees that the client has gained enough insight to deal with future recurring symptoms and has resolved transference issues, and determines that the client has the ability to work, enjoy life and play. Once the counselor has determined that there is little left to continue working on in therapy, it is time to introduce the reality of termination to the client. Counselor-initiated termination is also your ethical duty as a counselor if you determine "an inability to provide professional service" to your client. If this is the case, it is your responsibility to make appropriate referrals and to obtain the professional training that would enable you to work with similar clients effectively in the future.

Anticipated Reactions:
Sometimes, clients will resist the termination process. After all, they have enjoyed success, in part, due to a relationship with their counselor. Ending that relationship can be frightening. The client may insist that more time is needed to work on the issue(s). A plethora of additional problems may suddenly arise, and sessions may be missed in an attempt to draw out the process or avoid termination. The client may become suddenly angry at the mention of termination in order to create distance between client and counselor, and, in some cases, the client may prematurely end therapy of his or her own volition.
Counselors may also resist the process. If a client has enjoyed success, in which you have played a part, it is easy to want to maintain that relationship. As a counselor, you are receiving positive feedback, feeling needed and appreciated, all of which provides you with confidence and a sense of self-worth. Letting go of that to allow your client to function independently can be difficult. It is important to recognize the positive work you do as a counselor, but this should not lead to your maintaining a relationship that is no longer serving the client.
*** It is important to remind you that not all clients will exhibit the emotions outlined as "typical." You must understand your clients' reactions to termination in relation to their overall experience in the counseling relationship, taking care to acknowledge cultural and historical influences. For example, an Asian client is far less likely to exhibit anger and separation anxiety at termination than a client of European origin might be. This caveat is simply to remind you to pay appropriate attention to factors that might influence how your clients react or appear to react to the termination stage.