Letting Go and Moving Forward


Much has been written about the client’s need re letting go so they can move forward. Counselors need practice too. (This link is to The Counseling Practicum and Internship Manual: A Resource by Shannon Hodges.) It occasionally happens that a counselor becomes very attached to a client. She or he is bright, wants to try new things, complimentary, and considerate. You feel this person has become your friend – but whereas a counselor can have a friendly in-office relationship with a client – that’s where it ends.

Most professional associations do not endorse counselor-client relationships outside of the counseling setting, or any behavior – in or out of the workplace - which may violate professional boundaries.

How do we let go emotionally? Well, how do we encourage clients to let go? We tell them it’s ok to acknowledge or grieve a loss – they can talk about it or write about it in a journal or both. But then at some point it’s time. Somehow something inside of us says, “Time to stop this now, or at least wind it down somewhat.”

What I find works well in a variety of “loss” situations is to take on something new – something we might not otherwise have been able to, or even thought of. In counseling, there is always something or someone new to “take on.” There are always more clients than there are counselors, there are always good causes that need fresh volunteers.


It can also happen that a client need to be “weaned.” Most clients will either drop out of counseling or, having done some of the work they needed to do, be happy to move on. A few will develop new challenges and you may suspect this is happening because they see you as their friend or parent – which you are not. How do they let go emotionally? Give them the space to talk about how it feels to be at the end of their allotted number of sessions. (They knew the number at the beginning so this comes as no surprise.) They can journal. But also build into your “wind-down” session(s) the continuing need to find and develop social supports. These can be self-help groups like Bereavement or AA; it could be a church family or a community club.

The person needs to know that s/he can always drop you a line by email or snail mail and your former client has from the first session a list of all the community resources available – mental health and recreational.

I give a graduation gift – a Frisbee! I pick up a number of these at a local dollar store in a variety of colors. I can put a fun or inspirational sticker on it. I choose Frisbees because you can play Frisbee all year long. It gets people outside and you need another person to do it with. Or several. If my client was a senior, I would give a craft package that required two people to do it.


See Final Visit Pattern.

Further Reading and Videos


"The Counseling Practicum and Internship Manual: A Resource" by Shannon Hodges 2011


Very sweet short clip of a family acting out "Hello, Goodbye" by the Beatles.


There are things that we never want to be letting go of, people we never want to leave behind. But keep in mind that letting go isn’t the end of the world, it’s the beginning of a new life.”

Child with Kitten
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