Social Work Programs

March 27, 2010

Social Work Termination with a Client

socialworkterminationThe termination of a client is generally inevitable for social workers. Perhaps the treatment has completed and the client is able to go on with their lives; without needing assistance. Or there are some other reasons that a client must be released from their current counselor such as transference issues that are too difficult to handle within the session or therapist relocation.

The code of ethics from the NASW as well as the one from the ACA the American Counseling Association provides a basis of how a social worker can terminate a client. Counselors may not abandon their clients . If a vacation or one is unavailable to continue treatment making other arrangements is important. This often includes a referral to another counselor as a back up source or new counselor for termination. A group may also be useful for someone.

Client initiated terminations occur if the client is dissatisfied with the services that the counselor is providing or doesn’t feel they need counseling any longer. This must be taken very seriously especially for a client who may have severe psychiatric problems. It can be considered negligence if one believes the client may hurt themselves or another and this can include Baker acting someone in Florida.

While most social workers find it difficult to feel unappreciated or even disliked by their client for what they are doing for them; it does happen. Malpractice suits can evolve, depending on the circumstances and how it is handled. This is something that no social worker would want to have happen. Due to the sensitivity of the client and counselor relationship, the termination process should be accepted by the client, but also with the counselor. Remember that you may have been the only person that the client has ever opened up with about personal matters. This can trigger so many emotions. Having time to process it is important.

A proper way to terminate a client’s sessions is to give them notice well in advance. Two weeks is the minimum, however three weeks is a better choice. This allows the client the chance to handle possible frustration or fears of changing counselors. The counselor must explain to the client their reason for the termination; this will permit the client to fully understand the reasoning behind the termination. Most of the time patient grief comes from not fully understanding what is happening and leads them to draw conclusions that are not always a good thing. There are cases also of dealing with a difficult client that can complicate the process. I’ve had clients tell me half-jokingly that when I take a vacation they will behave like the client in the movie “What about Bob”. This movie though absurd on different levels, showed a client’s reaction to their counselor taking a summer vacation when they were unable to get in contact.

Follow the guidelines provided to you by the NASW if you’re a social worker or American Counseling Association as a counselor. Study them carefully. Provide a fair amount of time before you let your client know about the coming termination. If it is the client that has ended the relationship, speak to them about the reason they are leaving. This information will help you, even if it is good or bad. At least you will be able to reflect upon yourself and fix whatever the problem is; if possible. And finally keep your spirits high for your former client and give them the encouragement to move on.


  1. I try to have a month’s notice if I terminate with someone. Once was because I was moving out of town. People rely on you and count on their sessions. I had to terminate someone else because I was a projection of their family member and it just wasn’t something that we were able to stop from interfering into the session.

    Comment by Giovanni — April 10, 2010 @ 4:12 pm

  2. I was traumatized in summer when I came back from camp and my therapist had moved. I had no idea what happened to her and the agency was really secretive because they wanted me to see a counselor there. I couldn’t find her and didn’t want to see a new counselor. There was no closure.

    Comment by Adrianna — April 14, 2010 @ 6:47 pm

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