It may seem silly – but my personal trainer just dumped me, giving me a glimpse into what clients may feel when they hear that their therapist is leaving or transitioning, and will no longer be able to see them.
I literally just saw my trainer yesterday. And then today, I get a call from some other trainer – a “new guy” – telling me that he is taking over my former trainer’s clients. (What?) And, he wants to schedule a time for me to come in for a session! Surely, this must be a mistake – not only did I get dumped, I am already being set up! I mean, my last trainer and I haven’t really been seeing each other all that long, but he has witnessed me in some pretty vulnerable states, which will now be observed by someone else!
So, if you have clients that you are training, coaching, providing therapy to, or are offering some other supportive service, remember that hearing that you will no longer be seeing them, no matter the reason, may not be so easy on them. (No one wants to be dumped – personally or professionally!) Here are some helpful tips on how to approach the un-comfortableness of telling clients that they will not longer be working with you.
Tell them in person.
Under no circumstances, do you inform active clients of your departure in any other fashion. Do not tell them over the phone, via email, or in a professionally written letter. Remember, you have developed a relationship with them – they have most likely gotten vulnerable with you – which warrants a personal touch when you’re telling them that you are no longer going to be providing therapeutic services to them.
Doing anything other is like being dumped via text message – it’s not good for anyone!
They may have an initial reaction that is less than positive – no bunnies or rainbows here – so be prepared. Remember that you have had sufficient time to process and make this decision, which I’m sure, wasn’t easy, but it’s important to give your former clients the same courtesy. Generally, give them 3-4 weeks to prepare for your departure; this will give them the much-needed opportunity to come to terms with the transition.
Give them options.
Think about the people you’ve worked with individually, and then think about the personal recommendations you will give them before departing. Never leave them hanging to fend for themselves. Not only is the unprofessional, it’s unethical.
Help them find the best option for them, so that they can continue their journey to personal growth. But don’t assume they’ll want to see the person you’re recommending.
Being dumped is always made worse by lies!
Tell your clients the real reason(s) that you will be no longer providing services to them. “I’m moving”; “I’ve taken another position with another company”; “I’m retiring”; “I’m closing my practice”; “I’m taking a leave of absence for health reasons”.
Let them know that it is about you and not them. Whatever the reason, remember that you are human and not only is it okay, it’s extremely important to take care of your own needs. Doing so will make position you as a positive role model, since you’re showing your former clients what taking care of the self looks like.
It is true that as therapists, we don’t stay in the same position forever, but leaving can be extremely hard on us because we don’t want to let anybody down.
However, it is of utter importance that when the time comes, we end these relationships in the most compassionate, caring and thoughtful way possible, so they are not the ones that are feeling dumped.
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