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Avoid Premature Termination

People heal in psychotherapy when they avoid premature termination.

Therapist Dr. Ryan Hooper defines “premature termination” in psychotherapy as:

“a patient’s decision to end therapy, contrary to both the therapist’s current recommendation and the initial agreement between therapist and patient”

If you’re going through therapy right now, it’s important that you understand “premature termination” and how it hurts you.

About a year ago, I was seeing Lorna, in her 30s, a woman with severe panic and anxiety attacks. She has relational difficulties, such as discussing vulnerable feelings.

She quitted her sessions abruptly only after 4 appointments. With no notice of reason or intention. At a time when she’s starting to have some initial “gains.”

This week, I received a call from her from Europe where she lives now. She’s coming back, resuming her psychotherapy sessions.

When I met her again on Skype, face to face, she’s already in a chronic psychological state. More severe, than when we first started her therapy.

Very depressed. Crying spells. Attempted suicide several times. Addictive consumption of alcohol and drugs. At the brink of divorcing her husband and leaving her kid to him.

Too much, too fast.

A big contributing factor to it was her “premature termination” of her therapy before when there’s no “significant progress” yet.

It’s common. Typical. Yet deceptive.

When patients prematurely terminate sessions, they may experience a temporary reduction of symptoms. 

That’s usually because they stop directly processing upsetting issues (“can of worms”) in their lives. The very issues they need to face to heal.

One particularly candid patient reaction I heard in this situation is: “Doc, this sounds too much to me. It’s so hard and painful. And I don’t want to see what else is there inside.”

avoid premature termination

“Subconscious resistance.” Unwilling to continue facing specific painful issues. Overwhelmed by truths.There could be a variety of reasons.

However, after “premature termination,” the consequences follow. The symptoms do come back very quickly. And they’re often much worse than before. 

Psychotherapy provides wonderful possibilities, tools, and benefits. Good outcomes come out of it. It’s a life-saving and purpose-driven opportunity.

Avoid premature termination. It only cuts the opportunity short. It neutralizes initial gains so far in therapy.

The key to real growth and “significant progress” in psychotherapy is consistency.


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