Beginnings and Endings

The big concept in therapy is how do we do endings? How do we say to an individual or a family with whom we have been working, “You’re done”?

Our work is about completion, satisfaction, and separation.

At the inception we have to accept that the work will be done, so we decide our work together is done on the day we decide to start.

In the same way, we might ask, “When are we done with parenting our kids?’ We experience completion on the day they make a decision that we have no say in. Their decision is often marked by some ritual – getting married, moving out of the family home, or graduating from university. It is a psychological event when we suddenly realize our children can manage their own lives, though we might observe their decision-making and perhaps think, “I wouldn’t do it that way but it’s okay that they’re doing it the way they want to.”

Some programs don’t actually think about separation – they think about establishing the relationship, and that comes naturally because we are meeting someone we haven’t met before, and we spend time with them because they come to see us. But how do we do the final part of the therapy, and what does that amount to?

I think we have to do the ending part when we meet the person because what we inform our self with at that point in time is that their life belongs to them. We never actually take over their life in a way that we are going to be accountable and responsible for what they do.

For instance, when we introduce young people to work experience at the start of their vocational process, we want them to have the experience of separation as well as the experience of connecting. If a particular placement doesn’t work for them, it’s just as important as if it was successful because they have had the experience of being there and doing both connecting and separating.