“One likely doesn’t think much about therapy’s unavoidable end as they choose to start seeing someone, at least I didn’t. I started therapy for social anxiety in the summer of 2016 and I ended my time with that therapist almost exactly two years later. Once I got used to being in therapy and actually liked it, I started worrying about it eventually having to end. So, when my therapist brought it up about a year and a half in, I panicked.
For the last few months, our appointments were shorter because I had less to discuss every time I came in. I spent every time reflecting on the times I had been anxious since the last time I saw her, focusing on how I got myself through it. In one of these appointments, she asked me to rate my anxiety on a scale from 1 to 10 – 1 being the most anxious I’ve ever been, and 10 being an unrealistic state of no social anxiety. I told her I was at about 7 and she asked me where I want to be. I told her 8. We brainstormed ways to get myself there, which were things I always said about motivating myself to write and actively practice skills. She asked me to think about what it looks like when I don’t need to see her anymore. She saw the panic on my face and assured me it would always be my choice whether I wanted to continue seeing her or not. I thought about this between appointments and the next time I saw her we decided it looks like me being on top of myself and ultimately being my own therapist. We talked about planning self-care, how to know when things are bad and what to do about it, and using the skills I’d been taught over the last two years. I knew how to handle my anxiety day-to-day, but what scared me about leaving her was being lost in times of crisis. Many life changes that weren’t exactly positive happened in my life while I was seeing her and I didn’t know how I would handle any more changes without her. My biggest fear was ending up as scared to live my life as I was before I started seeing her. At the same time, it was unrealistic to think I could stay in therapy, or at least seeing one therapist, forever. Life gets in the way of that and I could have come up with new problems to keep seeing her, but that isn’t healthy or productive for either of us. She reminded me that I know what I’m doing as I had been functioning well every month between appointments, and there was a time that there was only one week between our appointments. I must have been doing something right on my own. We booked our next appointment for three months away, which also scared me but it was a great way for me to get used to managing on my own. My therapist let me know to contact her any time if I needed an appointment, and I was up for the challenge.
My biggest fear was ending up as scared to live my life as I was before I started seeing her (…) I wanted nothing more than an article to assure me that ending therapy didn’t mean I would inevitably be back where I was before.
Over these three months, I focused on caring for myself and I took days off when I needed them. I felt strong because I was living with anxiety for the first time rather than suffering from it. I had bad days of course, but they weren’t the worst days I’ve ever had. I realized I wouldn’t be lost without therapy, and if my biggest fear did come true eventually, I could go back to seeing someone. But at this point in time, I was ready to end therapy.
It’s been close to 6 months that I’ve been out of therapy, and I’m still managing my social anxiety well. My experience with this therapist was invaluable. I live my life now with her lessons in mind still teaching me, encouraging me, and challenging me. I’ll always use what she taught me, and now I get to share it with you. When I was struggling with this idea of ending therapy, I wanted nothing more than an article to assure me that ending therapy didn’t mean I would inevitably be back where I was before. So I hope this is exactly what you need too.”
McMaster University Student
Jaime is a fourth-year student at McMaster University, majoring in Social Psychology with a minor in Mental Health, Addiction and Society. She’s passionate about mental health and illness related issues, LGBTQ+ issues, and writing. So, she’s very excited to be writing as a guest for the Jack.org McMaster blog. Jaime is someone who struggles with mental health and illness issues herself, and is often open to discussing her experience in an attempt to help alleviate stigma. She also is a Wellness Outreach volunteer for the McMaster Student Wellness Centre in the Education Lounge (MUSC B118). In her spare time you can find her watching crime documentaries and dramas, listening to podcasts, and writing poetry.