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Group Counseling Termination

Termination of group counseling requires many of the same skills used in ending individual counseling relationships. Group counseling typically have a set number of sessions, which makes it easier to anticipate the ending, but it is still a difficult process for group members. Group leaders must remain aware of the timeline for the group, communicate it to members, and pick the appropriate timing to initiate the termination stage (Syracuse University, n.d.). It is the responsibility of group leaders to terminate group counseling in a transition that is smooth and reinforcing the progress made, helping participants implement it in daily lives.

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Steps

  1. Clients should be prepared for termination from the start, address the length of counseling and when or how it will end, which will not only mentally prepare the client but gives them informed consent on whether they wish to participate initially.
  2. Therapeutic goals should be set in the beginning of counseling which would mark the finish line for the group counseling, and each client should have individual goals and treatment plans based on achievable and measurable goals.
  3. It is important to gauge readiness for termination, using professional judgement if the group needs further mental health counseling and is nearing completion in achieving therapeutic goals.
  4. Beginning the termination process, the group members should be notified. At this point, to mitigate negative emotions of abandonment and sadness that may arise, it is critical to review gains made in the counselling sessions as a group.
  5. A mental health maintenance plan or strategies may be developed for the future so that clients are able to utilize what has been achieved during the counseling. The goal is not to be affected as much by triggers – or see warning signs that additional help may be needed and who they may contact.
  6. Finally, there is the conclusion step which terminates the group counseling and ends the process. It can be straightforward and professional, or more emotional, as members are encouraged to participate in some sort of farewell rituals as appropriate in the culture of the group in order to express emotions and validate their experiences (Therapist Aid, n.d.).

Importance of Planning

At the stage of termination, feedback is important, and it is the role of the counselor to educate each member on what to expect from the experience. Termination should be seen as both a clinical and ethics concept, intertwined and essential for meeting obligations to the group members (Barnett, n.d.). It is the counselor’s duty ethically to prepare the clients for the termination process and end the counseling when goals are reached or there is no long benefit from counseling.

As mentioned earlier, intertwining the concept of termination into informed consent from the beginning will benefit from an understanding point of view as well as potentially motivating the client. Through termination counselors can encourage and elicit client progress, and with a competent, well-prepared approached, empower members to integrate learned experiences and establish healthy boundaries for this commencement in order to face new chapters in their lives (Vasquez et al., 2008).

Challenges

Despite being aware of eventual termination of group counselling, the experience may be challenging for members and even for the therapist themselves. Over the course of the counselling sessions, it is likely that members may have grown attached to the group as well as come to rely on it for mental and emotional support. Literature indicates that termination often leads to feelings of abandonment, isolation, and loneliness (Vasquez et al., 2008).

The termination process can be particularly triggering to members who have experienced traumatic life events. The importance in planning the termination helps to anticipate some of these elements based on the group dynamics and individual members and make the transition smooth and appropriate while following all ethical and professional guidelines. Participants should walk away with skills to apply the mental health practices in their own individual lives without complete reliance on the group counseling (Kress & Marie, 2019).

Termination Session Plan

  1. Notify participants that this will be the final session – although members were likely warned in a previous session or received communication, it is important to emphasize this.
  2. Provide overview of everything learned in the session – necessary to emphasize the knowledge and techniques learned in group counseling so that members have a clearer understanding of the progress they made and how they can apply it to their lives.
  3. Initiate discussion on constructive feedback – provides input to both, the counselor and among group members on how they can improve and build on their strength, once again reinforces learned techniques.
  4. Initiate a semi-structured termination exercise with cultural components – this aspect will depend on the culture, nature, and closeness of the group. It may range from personal reflection questions to making a hope and appreciation list. Some groups may choose to engage in symbolic gift gifting or activities such as individually reviewing goals and setting new ones with the counselor. This step is necessary to make the transition simpler and ease any emotions of sadness or abandonment, as it allows the members to reflect and process their emotions.
  5. Terminating the counseling – saying final goodbyes and ensuring that everyone is mentally prepared for their next steps after counseling. It should be courteous and professional.

References

Barnett, J. E. (n.d.). 6 Strategies for ethical termination of psychotherapy and for avoiding abandonment. Web.

Kress, V., & Marie, M. (2019). Counseling termination and new beginnings. Counseling Today. Web.

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Syracuse University. (n.d.). Termination of counseling. Web.

Therapist Aid. (n.d.). Successful therapy termination. Web.

Vasquez, M. J. T., Bingham, R. P., & Barnett, J. E. (2008). Psychotherapy termination: Clinical and ethical responsibilities. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 64(5), 653–665. Web.

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