Termination: “I grew like a flower”
“Change is not only inevitable, but always happening. When you truly embrace this concept of change being constant, the only thing left to do is grow, detach, venture inwards, touch the spirit and find your source — the one responsible for keeping you grounded through the ever-changing seasons of life.” — Julie Weiland
I am nearing the end of my first year of my MSW program, which means the end of my first clinical social work internship…which further means…termination.
Termination can be a difficult time for both the client and the therapist because of feelings of sadness, loss, and previous experiences with endings that may come up. That being said, termination is also a time for reflection of accomplishment during the time in therapy. My supervisor told me it is also a time for great healing about previous grief and loss experiences. This is because termination will likely stir up those feelings and memories, providing the perfect opportunity to reflect upon the qualities of the healthy therapeutic relationship and to model how endings and change are a part of life.
During consultation with my supervisor about the termination process, my mind kept wandering to the natural world: the four seasons, trees, flowers, plants, grass…all things that grow and change. It was from these wandering thoughts that I decided to base my termination interventions using the metaphor of the natural world to highlight change and transformation during the therapeutic process.
*Picture shown is not client work.
Naturally, my termination interventions involve art creation! I have several different activities in mind for my clients. Each activity was catered to my client’s individual positionality and personality. I decided the termination process would take about 2-3 sessions.
Session #1 — The use of metaphor to discuss change and personal growth
No matter the art activity chosen, we discussed change and growth by using the metaphor of the the seasons. I asked a client to choose a portion of the natural world that called to them, whether it be a specific season, all the seasons, a tree, flower, plant, etc. Once chosen, I first asked the client to describe why they chose it. (“What made you choose [object]? What about it spoke to you?”)
Next, I asked the client to describe the changing process of their chosen element. (“How does [object] change/grow/bloom? Tell me about it.”)
Eventually, we talk about barriers to growth, or the circumstances which prevent growth from happening. I ask the client to tell me these barriers to their chosen object. (“What prevents [object] from changing/growing/blooming?”)
Notice how up to this point, all discussion has took place using the metaphor only. Using metaphor helps introduce the subject of change without directly talking about how it pertains to ourselves!
Remember, everything up to this point was a discussion that took place during an art therapy intervention. Each client had a different or modified activity.
For one client, I asked them to choose their natural object and then directed them to draw it.
The client may decide to draw a fruit tree.
Or perhaps a blooming flower!
For another client, we created the “My Personal Growth Book.” The client chose their natural object and then wrote a short story about its growth/change. Each page became a different “phase” of growth the client identified.
In the “My Personal Growth Book”, the client can illustrate a flower’s growth with pictures.
Session #2 — Integrating metaphor and personal experience
During the next session, I brought the client’s art piece to use for reference. I started this session out by asking the client to explain their art to me. Once explained, I directed the client to explain how they are similar to their chosen natural object. (“Do you see any similarities between you and [object]? What are they? How are you different?”)
This is the part where the topic of the client’s personal growth during the course of therapy is brought into the open.
I ask the client to reflect on the moment they entered therapy. What was life like for them at that point? Who were they? What did they feel? Were they nervous about therapy? Excited? Scared? Indifferent?
Next, I ask the client what changed for them and what helped them change. When did they start noticing personal growth in themselves? What ignited that growth (e.g. what did they learn about the world/themselves/others?)? Was there a particular moment that influenced them the most?
This leads to further conversation about what they’ve learned during their time in therapy and what helped them grow. Think about what helps their natural object grow, blossom, and change. What helped and continues to help them grow and flourish? (For my younger clients, I asked them questions still relating to the metaphor, for example: “Water helps plants grow. What is your water?”)
Use the client’s artwork to guide your discussion of growth, change, and blooming. In this picture, you could ask the client what the water does for the trees. Then ask them to clarify what the water represents in their personal life.
The objective of this session is to highlight the client’s personal growth and accomplishments during therapy. This is the perfect time for you as the therapist to identify areas of growth you have observed. Making these identifications will assist the client in personal reflection, but also show the strength of the therapeutic relationship because you were paying attention to them and their experience. How validating is that?
If there were barriers to growth (there likely were), what were they for the client? You can show similarities between barriers identified to the natural object’s growth in Session #1. Despite a storm, the tree’s roots kept it safe in the ground. The tree survived and continued to grow.
Session #3 — Who are you now? Where are you now?
The final phase of this termination intervention is reflecting on the client as they are in the present moment.
If they chose a flower, in what ways have they “bloomed”? If they chose a tree, what “fruit” did they grow? If they chose another plant, what special elements did the plant grow? Regardless of their chosen natural element, the client is to identify who they are now.
For the client who chose a flower, I had them create a paper flower like this one:
In the center of the flower is the client’s name. On the petals (which the client creates on their own using any colors they want, any shapes they want), the client writes or draws about the person they are in the present moment. When I did this activity, I had the client use “I” statements when writing on their petals. It became “The [client’s name] Flower.”
The client takes their art pieces with them after the final session. Their art is to serve as a reminder of their tremendous growth during their time in therapy.
Therapy can bring out our vulnerabilities, but with these vulnerabilities comes great strength. What a beautiful process.
One of my client’s words to me about their personal growth were this:
“I grew like a flower.”
*All pictures shown in this post are not client work.