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Page Contents: When you have doubts about ending psychotherapy.                    


I would like to terminate my relationship with my psychotherapist of three years. I haven’t been to see him in three months; it was always our arrangement that I would see him when I wanted and there were never regularly scheduled visits.
Our relationship was a “very intense transference relationship” as he put it but suddenly I just feel OK without him (no fondness, no attachment, no anger). I’m wondering if I should give him the courtesy of telling him or if I should just leave things be. That way I wouldn’t be burning my bridge in the event that I may require his help further on down the road. I also wonder if the transference is really over. How does one know?

Usually, psychotherapy is structured around regularly scheduled visits, most often once per week. Consequently, it’s only in this context of regular visits that termination has any meaning, because it’s the regularity of the visits that is being terminated. Your treatment, however, has been conducted on an as-needed basis, and so there really is nothing to terminate. All you really need to do is change your as-needed time frame; even “never again” still fits the definition of “as needed.”

An “intense transference relationship” is a polite way of describing extreme vacillations between love and hate. It signifies that a person depends primarily on the “Other”—that is, external recognition—to maintain a sense of “self.” When the recognition is positive, then you’re intoxicated and you feel loved. When the recognition is negative, then your whole sense of being collapses through terror into a pit of anger and vengeance.

Now, if and when you achieve such inner stability as to not require external validation from others to feel worthwhile, and when you can give real love to others even when you feel unloved—and even hated—by them, then all transference is over.

I caution you, however, that when you feel anything “suddenly” there is often an unconscious cause lurking in the background. In your case, the desire to terminate a relationship that doesn’t need to be terminated could be a veiled desire for revenge—and that would mean the transference, far from being over, is really alive and thriving.


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Raymond Lloyd Richmond, Ph.D.
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