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The community art counselling training starts on 18 January 2022

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Section 7: Endings

“Beginnings and endings are hard for people to manage; they often call out deep feelings in both workers and members, and much skill is needed to help people help each other during these times” (Swartz, 1971).

It is necessary for the community art counsellor to be aware of the different meanings an ending may have, and reactions endings may evoke for clients.

The following should be thought about when preparing for endings and transitions:

  • Reasons for ending counselling
  • Individual reactions to termination
  • Skills in the ending phase
  • Record keeping/referrals
  • What to do with artworks/ folders
  • Future counselling

REASONS FOR ENDING COUNSELLING

Planned endings 

  • End of a session
  • Achievement of goals
  • Lack of progress toward goal achievement
  • Pre-determined time limits set by the agency

Unplanned endings

  • Client or counsellor leaves or is transferred

INDIVIDUAL REACTIONS TO TERMINATION

  • Clients are now faced with the anxiety of having to leave as the sessions end
  • The central feeling is ambivalence - the client feels the desire for independence and pride in some goal achievement, while experiencing regrets and feelings of loss as the counselling relationship comes to an end

Fox and colleagues (1969) point out the central elements in the ambivalent stage:

  • Feelings of rejection giving rise to panic, rage and a sense of worthlessness
  • Feelings of loss giving rise to grief and mourning
  • The need to function on one’s own, giving rise to feelings of maturity and independence

Anxiety and ambivalence experienced during the ending phase may give rise to a series of behaviours and attitudes, which the counsellor may find difficult to understand. Johnson (1974) classifies these into positive and negative reactions.

Negative reactions include:

  • Trying to stall endings e.g. by bringing up new problem situations
  • Denial, by asserting that an end was never mentioned, to start clinging and becoming dependent on the counsellor
  • Feeling nervous and insecure, losing confidence and going back to old behaviour patterns, forgetting what has been learnt
  • A wish to begin again
  • “I still need you”
  • “I’ll leave you before you leave me” - the client leaves counselling before the due date and doesn’t keep appointments
  • A rejection of the community art counsellor and the value of the sessions

Positive reactions include:

  • Reminiscing about achievements and the relationship formed
  • Reflecting on the images created within the therapeutic journey
  • Evaluations about progress made
  • A focus on new experiences and relationships outside the counselling situation
  • Becoming independent

SKILLS IN THE ENDING PHASE

Identification of major learning

This involves reflecting on the work that has been done together and identifying some of the things that have been learned. This includes reflecting on the images made in the sessions, focusing on the creative potential of the client and the capacity to expand that process going forward.

Transferring skills and learning

This involves helping clients to see how skills that they have developed in the counselling can be transferred to other situations.

Looking at new support system

This involves helping the client to identify resources (internal and external) and examine how these can be used as supports when the counselling relationship comes to an end. The images are often evidence of the resourcefulness and creativity that exists in the client that can be nurtured and elaborated upon after ending.

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