A Helping Relationship?
A helping relationship will develop through different stages towards achieving its objectives. It can be difficult for the speaker to move away from the relative protection of this type of relationship, as compared to other types of relationship they may have which feel less helpful or safe. It can therefore be easier for those involved if the ending is managed gradually rather than suddenly. It is also helpful if the impending end of the relationship is openly discussed beforehand so that any feelings about it can be shared.
In a formal counselling relationship, the boundary setting at the outset of the relationship could have covered agreement to how many sessions would be required. Sometimes the boundary can include an option to continue, again for a finite period of time, if listener and speaker agree. In either case, the ending will come and is best managed on the basis of no surprises and with all expectations and concerns about it managed in advance.
In other types of helping relationship, like that between parent and child concerning a specific issue, it might help to draw the line upon how much time will be spent discussing that particular issue, so that both can move on.
Other useful strategies to end the helping relationship are:
- to summarise and agree the progress made and how far the objectives have been met
- encourage a two-way feedback about the relationship, the effect it has had on the speaker and the listener and what has been learned
- explore other means of future support for the listener which could include further counselling or other kinds of support at a future date with current or different listeners.
- accept that, sometimes, it may be the speaker who wishes the relationship to end for any kind of reason, and this should be accepted and supported by the listener