Abstract

Therapists often struggle to determine the most important things to focus on during termination. Reviewing the treatment, identifying plans for the future, summarizing positive gains, and saying goodbye receive the most attention. Despite our best intentions, termination can end up becoming intellectualized. Attachment theory and recent developments in neuroscience offer us a road map for facilitating endings that address client’s underlying relational needs, direct us to foster engagement, and help us facilitate new relational experience that can be transformative for clients. We argue that endings in therapy activate client’s and therapist’s attachments and these endings trigger emotion regulating strategies that can elicit client’s engagement or more defensiveness. The current paper will highlight through de-identified case examples how clients automatically respond termination and how therapists can foster rich relational experiences in the here-and-now that clients can take with them.

Keywords: attachment, termination, loss, polyvagal theory, engagement, alliance