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Page Contents: The value of intermittent psychotherapy.                    


My question is about termination. I began seeing a psychotherapist eight years ago for sexual abuse issues & marital difficulties. After two years she took a two year sabbatical. During that two years I periodically & briefly saw several other counselors to help me cope with a mentally ill daughter. When I ran into my counselor four years ago I resumed seeing her four-six times a year. During the last four years I have considered her more a counselor than a therapist for me, although it was therapeutic. I’ve felt for the last year and a half that I should be working toward termination but didn’t discuss it with her until four months ago. Although she encouraged me to expand my network of friends & helpful resources I never felt like she was pushing me to leave. We share similar religious values and views and she’s been a valuable resource, spiritually. . . . Anyway, I finally talked to her about terminating four months ago & thought I probably wouldn’t see her again. But last week I wanted her input on an issue with a family member, so I called her. Is it necessary to terminate a relationship that provides valuable help for me?

Not at all.

Back in the late 1960s, the psychologist Nick Cummings predicted the managed-care model of treatment—a model than now rules most psychotherapy—before anyone even knew what managed care was. As an alternative to that model, Cummings himself invented a model of psychological care known as “focused intermittent psychotherapy throughout the life-cycle.” This model stated that throughout a person’s life there can be times when psychological help may be needed: leaving home and family for the first time; getting a job or changing jobs; getting married; having children; mourning deaths; retiring; and so on. “Why,” Cummings argued, “shouldn’t one psychotherapist follow one person throughout all these events?” And the answer, of course, is “Why not?” That’s how physicians and dentists and other medical practitioners conduct their practices. It makes just as much sense for psychotherapists.


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Raymond Lloyd Richmond, Ph.D.
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