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Page Contents: When your psychotherapist makes hints about ending the psychotherapy.                    


I have been in therapy for about four months now. Today my therapist asked me if I felt like therapy was working or if I wanted to move on to another type of therapy. Immediately I felt as though she must not think we are getting anywhere. I have felt pretty good about our meetings and feel as though I am slowly making progress. Do you think that my therapist is hinting at the fact that she wishes to terminate therapy, or is it a standard procedure for therapists to check in like she did?

You touch on an important issue when you talk about psychotherapy being a slow process. Just so that you understand what that process involves, I will repeat what I say throughout this website: psychotherapy should help you achieve the ability to communicate with others openly and honestly. That process takes a lot of hard—and sometimes terrifying—work, and you will have to overcome quite a few unconscious conflicts that tend to block the process.

Now, you give a good clue as to what at least one of your conflicts may be. You wonder if your psychotherapist is hinting about terminating treatment. Well, an important psychological task is to overcome your tendency to feel discouraged by “hints” and to learn how to ask direct questions when you feel uncertain about another person’s motives.

So, whenever you get into a place where you say, “I felt as though she must not think . . . ,” your task is to recognize that feeling of discomfort and then do something about it by asking her directly what she is thinking.

Most likely, this sort of direct questioning will feel awkward and risky because it contradicts all of your previously learned defenses to protect yourself from emotional vulnerability. But isn’t the whole point of psychotherapy to change previously learned ways of protecting yourself from emotional vulnerability? So, instead of just passively wondering about what others are thinking, take the initiative and check in with them yourself.


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Raymond Lloyd Richmond, Ph.D.
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