When is it time to end therapy?

I’ve decided to bring three years of therapy to a close by the end of August. This is difficult because my therapist doesn’t really agree with the decision. She thinks we should continue and explore some of the more painful issues that I’ve largely avoided bringing into the room. She says she’s concerned that I may be “abandoning myself” by stopping therapy right now.

I respect her professional opinion and agree that I need to deal with the “really bad stuff” at some point, but I just don’t feel that now is the right time in my life. My partner and I finally have some hard-won stability and I want to enjoy that for a while. I also need some space to consider whether she’s the right therapist to do that harder piece of work with. We’ve built a good relationship, but maybe I want someone with specific kinds of experience, or a different therapeutic approach.

I started this course of therapy mainly because I needed to get my anxiety under control. Three years ago, I was having almost daily panic attacks. It was wrecking my life and damaging my relationships. That’s now largely resolved. I still have anxiety (in fact, the “cure” has been very much about accepting the anxiety), but I know what’s causing it and I’m able to manage it well most of the time. We’ve worked on loads of other stuff too and it’s all been really helpful. It’s not perfect, but it’s a lot better than it was. For me, right now, that’s good enough.

Then there’s the commitment of money, time and energy. I’m not sure that therapists always appreciate this, perhaps because therapy is their life and it’s what they want to do all the time. Therapy is so expensive and I’m incredibly lucky and privileged to be able to afford it at all. But it’s still quite a big financial sacrifice. It’s meant making decisions about what I can afford and putting off things like new glasses, trips to the dentist and holidays. I do feel a little sick when I think that I could be a step closer to that mortgage deposit if I hadn’t had therapy. Overall, I still believe it’s been a worthwhile investment in myself, but after three years, the sense of conflict with my other needs has become a little too urgent and I’m starting to resent it, which I worry could potentially undo some of the good work we’ve done.  Personally, I want a break … and a holiday.

I do get her point about the risk of “abandoning myself”, but I need to feel a lot safer in myself before I try and address the more painful stuff, so that’s what I’m planning to focus on in my own time for a while. I would like to get to a point where the terrified child I carry around inside me is isn’t screaming “NONONO” every time I get close and then maybe, we can start to deal with it.

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