Psychotherapy Termination Practices with Older Adults: Impact of Patient and Therapist Characteristics

Daniel J. Sullivan, Patricia Zeff, Richard A. Zweig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Objectives: The aims of this study were to survey clinicians’ opinions regarding psychotherapy practices in mutual termination with a specified population (depressed older adult outpatients) and to examine the patient and therapist characteristics that may influence such practices. Methods: We surveyed psychologists’ (N = 96) psychotherapy termination practices, using a hypothetical depressed older adult as a referent, to assess consensus on the appropriateness of various guidelines to termination and to examine whether these differ as a function of patient and therapist characteristics. Results: Several practices were generally agreed to be “extremely appropriate” when terminating psychotherapy with older adults, including collaborating to determine the end date of treatment and discussing patient growth. Data also indicate that patient factors, such as personality pathology, and therapist factors, such as having an Integrative theoretical orientation were associated with differential endorsement of termination practices. Identification as a geropsychologist or working regularly with older adults were associated with a more cautious approach to termination. Conclusions: There is substantial consensus regarding many approaches to termination, but modifications might be appropriate depending on patient characteristics. Clinical Implications: Clinicians agree on a set of fundamental termination practices when working with older adults, but modify these based on orientation and diagnosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)399-411
Number of pages13
JournalClinical Gerontologist
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 20 2018


  • Geropsychology
  • older adults
  • personality disorders
  • psychotherapy
  • termination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Health(social science)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Gerontology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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