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Page Contents: How to mourn the end of psychotherapy.                    


After nearly seven years of four times a week psychoanalysis I feel I’ve come to the end of this phase of my analytic work. I’ve learned so much about myself and discovered pieces and parts of myself that I’d alienated or isolated or just plain tried to forget about. I wasn’t expecting the end of analysis to be so painful. I’m going to miss my analyst. It seems sort of unnatural to end a relationship when there’s nothing wrong. On the contrary, ending now is happening because the work was a success. The mourning of the end of the work was something I didn’t expect. I’ve been able to find a lot of information about other analytic stages like working through and building the psychoanalytic alliance, but the emotions for the end of analysis for the analysand have not been forthcoming. Is this just because it’s different for everyone? I just find myself feeling lonely and sad and worried.

Your question serves as a sort of dénoeument to a previous question about the fear of ending treatment. That question was raised after some initial goals had been accomplished, but before the transference itself had been analyzed. In your case, you have done most of the analytic work, and you now face the sadness of its ending.

When you say, “The mourning of the end of the work was something I didn’t expect,” you indicate that something was missed in the treatment. That points to a failure in the treatment itself. Nevertheless, this unexpected encounter can teach you something, and, if you accept the lesson gracefully, you can still remedy on your own that final mistake of your treatment.

The point is this: with any ending, feelings of sadness about the loss are to be expected, and with any beginning, feelings of worry about the unknown are to be expected. Your task now is to accept openly and honestly your feeling “lonely and sad and worried” and, without being held back by those feelings, to face the future—the beginning of the rest of your life—with courage and hope. Cling to what you have learned, not to memories of what you have lost, and move forward with confidence.


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Raymond Lloyd Richmond, Ph.D.
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