Ideally, termination of the service relationship occurs when the goals that are mutually agreed upon by the peer specialist and client have been achieved, or the problem for which a client has entered into the relationship has become more manageable or is resolved. If you work in an agency, collaboration with the full clinical team is advised before terminating services.
Termination is the final stage of the helping process but is not something that should be broached during your last (or next to last) session with a client. Doing so does not allow for the proper amount of time for the peer specialist and client to process what termination means, how the client will handle the conclusion of the service relationship, and what follow-up contact or transitioning needs to happen.
Here are some ways you can effectively move your clients toward termination:
- Remind clients of the approaching ending of the time with you. This provides you an opportunity to ask clients to talk about relationships that have ended in their past, how they have ended, and how that might affect the end of this relationship. A question to ask prior to the final one, which may help to prepare clients for the reality of the end, is “If this were our last meeting, how would that be for you?”
- Review the progress that you and the client have made during your time together. Very often, clients will forget the advances they have made, or neglect to give themselves credit for their accomplishments. Doing this with them can instill confidence and provide them with a positive perspective of their future. Ask your clients what they learned, what they intend to do with what they have learned, and what they found helpful about your work together.
- Allow clients to talk about their feelings surrounding termination. They will likely have many emotions to work through and time should be spent acknowledging and processing them.
- Be aware of your own feelings surrounding the termination process. It is normal to feel many emotions when ending a relationship with your clients. Acknowledge your feelings, your ambivalence about termination, etc. Always keep in mind that your ultimate goal as a peer specialist is to “put yourself out of business.” If you are good at what you do, people will not need to continue to see you for help. They will have the tools to help themselves.
- If possible, have an open-door policy. Once termination has ended, clients may want to return a few months or years later to refocus or to “check-in”.
- Review the tools and skills that clients have acquired through the counseling process. These tools will be critical in helping clients be self-sufficient in handling problems that might have previously brought them to counseling. If there are additional resources that you feel your client would benefit from for continued personal growth, make appropriate referrals and make your client aware of them.