142 Endings structure that fits well with both temporary separations and permanent end- ings. Long-term facilities for the chronically ill, the elderly, and children provide different temporal structures. The temporal nature of the service itself also affects the ending phase. By definition, an open-ended service carries no time limit or ending date, while a planned short-term service has a specified duration, with an ending date clearly stated at the outset. The practice modality (individual, family, group, or community) influences the ending phase in important ways as well. For individuals and members of families and groups, termination can mean a loss that has both realistic and unrealistic features. In families and groups that remain intact, members may continue—to at least some degree—to have one another as a mutual aid or support system, which may blunt the impact of ending with the worker. If, however, the family or group faces separation from one another along with the separation from the worker, as in divorce or the breakup of a camp group, the combined losses may feel more painful and difficult to manage. Earlier experiences with relationships and loss, as well as the meaning attached to the relationship with the worker, also affect the termination pro- cess. Social workers are also subject to painful feelings and reactions. Therefore, workers engage in anticipatory empathy so that they are prepared for their own and their clients’ reactions to the pending end of their work. 3. Phases of Termination The phases of termination are avoidance, negative feelings, sadness, and release. Each phase has its own tasks, but not every client will go through each phase in the order presented in the chapter. Avoidance. The more satisfactory the relationship, the more likely clients will ward off separation anxiety by negating and avoiding its reality. Frequent reminders are often necessary, so that the painful reality remains on the agenda. Negative feelings. Avoidance often gives way to the reality of termination through the social worker’s empathic support. Still, a period of intense reaction may follow. Clients will express their hurt in many ways, including direct anger at the worker. Others express their anger in a subtle, more indirect manner. Still others turn their feelings inward and experience the ending as a reflection of their unworthiness and/or the worker’s disappointment with them. Clients may reintroduce needs or tasks that have been resolved or com- pleted. In helping people deal with their intense reactions, social workers must maintain sufficient identification with clients to understand the feelings that have been aroused and their source. At the same time, social workers must be sufficiently detached to invite and pursue the expression of negative reactions and feelings about themselves and the service.
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