An exploration of the meaning of the end of the therapeutic relationship from the therapists perspective

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Murphy, Martina
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BA (Hons) Counselling and Psychotherapy
Dublin Business School
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The purpose of this research was to explore the meaning of the end of the therapeutic relationship from the therapist’s perspective. It firstly explored the therapist’s view of time limitation and its possible impact on the end of the relationship. Secondly the study looked at the therapist’s experience of planned and unplanned endings and the personal processes involved therein. Thirdly the study examined the therapist’s experience of recognising cues from the client that the end may be in sight. Finally the study explored the therapist’s personal relationship with loss and whether that has an effect on how they manage the ending. A qualitative approach was used in order to explore in depth, the real life experience of the participants. A sample of five psychotherapists, two male and three female, with at least five years post accreditation experience was selected. The research questions (See Appendix 1) were designed to allow open ended responses and the tone of the interviews was informal and conversational in nature. The interviews were transcribed and a thematic analysis approach was used to inductively identify themes in order to report the findings. In general the findings of this research were reflective of the themes in the existing literature. The existing literature is largely from the Psychoanalytical or existential perspective, with very little empirical studies from the Psychodynamic or Integrative paradigms. It was found that the existing literature is mainly focussed on the client’s experience and what processes may be evident in the client at the end of the relationship. The literature lacked in the area of the experience of the Therapist. The therapist’s countertransference, its impact on the ending was 5 reflective of the existing literature to some small extent. Also reflective of the existing literature was the importance of the therapist’s relationship with personal and universal loss and the impact that may have on the ending. A recommendation was made for training institutes to incorporate the exploration of the meaning of the end of the therapeutic relationship from the therapist’s perspective, and the importance of attending to countertransference and the processing of unresolved personal loss for the therapist. Further research was suggested into the meaning of the ending from the Psychodynamic and Integrative therapist’s perspective. Specifically, the countertransference issues that may arise in the therapist due to unresolved loss should be highlighted.