Ending coaching relationships

By Jim LaDoux
Your relationship with clients usually extends beyond the formal coaching relationship. How you mark the ending of your role as a coach is important. Coaching relationships end for a variety of reasons. In most cases, the client achieved their desired outcomes through the coaching relationship and the ending of the coaching relationship becomes a celebration of “mission accomplished.” Some relationships end due to budgeted funds expiring.  In these cases, coaches often explore ways that clients may continue to move forward as they "go it alone." There are also times when, after mutual discernment with the client, that the client wasn't ready to receive coaching or has needs that would be better served by working with a counselor, consultant, mentor or another type of support beyond coaching.  There are also settings when the coach and client recognize that they aren’t a good fit for one another.

Whatever the reason, the goal for ending a coaching relationship is to end on a positive, hopeful note.  Listed below are a few strategies for ending coaching relationships with clients.

1 | Reflect on the progress clients made during the coaching process. 
Reflections may include listing changes that occurred to a client’s:
  • Assumptions and self-imposed limitations.
  • Attitudes and managing one's mindset.
  • Approaches and new awarenesses that surfaced during coaching.
  • Actions and the development of new habits and routines.
If coaching is about sparking transformation in people’s lives, then it's important to list and celebrate what has changed. Help your clients look back to when they began the coaching process and how they've moved toward their preferred future.

2 | Tell them they’re ready to go it alone.
Many clients are ready to continue address their desired outcomes without any further coaching assistance. Invite the clients to name their strengths and the resources they have available to them for moving forward. With the client's permission, you may suggest some resources to support their next steps.

3 | Describe, in concrete ways, how the coaching relationship will change.
Describe what an appropriate relationship would look like outside of a formal coaching relationship. State what you will or won't do when the coaching relationship ends. Establish norms and boundaries that serve BOTH you and the client well.

4 | Plan to reconnect at a future time.
Ending coaching relationships doesn’t mean that you never wish to see your clients again. Times for reconnecting are often fun and productive for both parties. Coaches learn how clients have continued to grow, learn, and make progress as a result of the coaching you've provided and the coach and client may also discover opportunities to reengage in a new coaching relationship.

5 | Offer a parting gift reflect their progress, passions, perspectives, or next step.
I offered parting gifts more frequently when "in person" or onsite coaching was the primary connection point. Now, most coaching is done by phone or Zoom. On occasion, I still offer gifts that may include items such as:
  • Books that will help them on their journey.
  • A journal or writing pen (if I knew that journaling was one of the ways they processed their life and learnings).
  • A short-term subscription to a book club or ministry resource.
  • A complimentary session with a mentor, counselor, or consultant.
  • A token gift (usually less than $10) that reflects a gift, passion, or unique perspective I see in them.

6 | Recommend someone else to serve as their coach.
When I sense that I'm the wrong person to support a client's next steps, I often suggest another coach who may be a better fit for them. I often ask the coach whom I'm suggesting to provide a 30 minute complimentary coaching session to see if they'd be good "dance partners" for each other.

Like a good book, coaching relationships need to start and end strong. Have a strategy for doing both well and processes in place for doing this in a consistent manner.


  • What do you want your clients to THINK, FEEL, and DO and the end of the coaching relationship?
  • What are you doing now to start and end well? What will you KEEP doing?
  • What will you START or STOP doing to improve how how begin and end coaching relationships?
  • What's the ONE THING you can do now to improve the way you end well with your clients?
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Brian Hooper - April 19th, 2022 at 1:46pm

At the end of any coaching relationship, I hope the client would be able to recognize and name the transformation/growth that took place over the coaching relationship. Perhaps a concluding coaching session could include some dialogue concerning changes. One way to help a coaching relationship to end well would be consistent follow up, perhaps asking along the way: "What is working well and not working well? Are there things that we are missing? How can I further support you in this coaching relationship?"

Tom Smith - April 19th, 2022 at 1:56pm

Brian, I like the idea of devoting some time during the last session for reflection/celebration. I wonder if during the second to the last session the coach could suggest the client reflect on progress and bring a couple notable changes with them to the last session or to ponder the questions you suggest prior to meeting for the last session.

Dan Solomon - April 19th, 2022 at 3:58pm

Tom, that is a great suggestion to invite the client to do some reflection and assessment prior to the last coaching session. Would likely make for a much more powerful conversation (for both client and coach).

Mary Eide - April 19th, 2022 at 2:34pm

Brian, I like your idea of having a practice of checking in with the client to BOTH help them acknowledge what has changed (for the good), as well as do spot checks to ensure the coaching relationship is working for them...and give both client and coach an opportunity to suggest fine tuning that could take place.

Mary Eide - April 19th, 2022 at 2:31pm

There is so much value in doing what Jim suggests in the blog to end the coaching relationship on a good note: having the client state their wins, ways they’ve grown, what they’ve made happen, or in some cases…what they were able to stop happening. I want them to FEEL GOOD about the journey we’ve shared together, and CONFIDENT about what they can achieve on their own. I would like them to put into practice what they have learned over the course of our time together, which would include having accountability partners who can help them stay the course.

I can’t honestly say HOW I’ve started or ended coaching relationships yet…but I’ll keep in mind the ideas Jim present with regards to asking them to give voice to how they have been changed by the experience, and give lots of affirmations about how they ARE ready to continue moving forward without a coach…while occasionally sending out notes/emails to check on their status.

With regards to the more difficult situations Jim wrote about, this is all together a different situation. I’ve been on the client side when I had to stop using coaching services because funds had dried up. Because I knew her as a dear friends and knew her journey, I felt bad about having to stop working with her. I also wasn’t sure I could make it without her.

I’m NOT looking forward to the awkward moment when a client and I come to the awareness that we aren’t a good fit. Even worse yet…what if only ONE of us feel that way??

Nathan Luitjens - April 19th, 2022 at 6:47pm

I like what you have to say about confidence. So much of what a coach gives to the client is the space to see a way forward and the tools to take steps into their preferred future. As long as we have been able to give the client that and can help them to recognize the progress they have made I think that will go a long way to giving them the confidence they need to keep moving. I also think some form of staying connected can be helpful to them, reminding them that they have made significant moves in the past can hopefully continue to help them as they move forward.

Jason D. Bland - April 26th, 2022 at 8:28am


I think your focus on positively closing out coaching relationships will pay big dividends in the long rung, because it validates the coaching concept of truly caring for the person and valuing them and their time they shared with us. To simply close out the relationship without any "fanfare" would be missing an opportunity to further strengthen the coaching bond and appreciation in them we should exhibit.

Sherry Villanueva - April 19th, 2022 at 3:26pm

I have found that setting up the ending of a therapy relationship with my clients was as important as setting the beginning. I have felt that specifically naming the learnings and victories they accomplished through our work together gave them the added belief and courage in themselves to move forward from our work together. Sometimes I like to think of it like packing a suitcase before they head off for a world trip. After going down memory lane, I ask the client to name those things that they have discovered as absolutes that they know they will need and use for years to come. We celebrate the work well done by the client. I often send them with added resources/books they may use to support their continued growth. If the client asks to update me on their journey, I welcome the connection.

Ladd Sonnenberg - April 19th, 2022 at 3:33pm

As a few others have shared, I love the idea for an ending session to be a celebration session no matter what has brought the end to fruition. I like talking about how they have seen themselves grow or what they’ve learned about themselves regardless of reaching the end goal that they may have or not. I also like the idea to do a follow up down the road. Allowing the client to know that they can always reach out and check in but at the same time as it’s been stated in Jim’s article to set healthy boundaries of what future relationships would or would not look like. I think these are all healthy things to keep in mind moving forward.

Ladd Sonnenberg - April 19th, 2022 at 3:34pm

I appreciate how you connect it to your own experience as a therapist. I agree that the way you and this is as important as the way you begin. Leaving on a positive note no matter the situation is always important. As one of my mentors always says be careful about which bridges you burn, because you might want to cross over them down the road.

Dan Solomon - April 19th, 2022 at 4:11pm

I agree with consensus of those who have already commented that it is key celebrate the transformation and growth experienced by the client in the coaching relationship. An honest assessment in this final session will be helpful for the client and the coach as they move forward. Client's can be encouraged that they are better equipped to engage in "self-coaching" as a result of their work and growth in the coaching relationship. As I'm in the very early stages of my coaching I don't have experience in ending coaching relationships. However, it appears that the starting and ending are both key to effective coaching relationships. Therefore, at this point, it is important that I intentionally and thoughtfully consider how I might best shape the start and close of my coaching relationships. Additionally, It is important to commit to continuing to assess these important transitions as I gain more coaching experience.

Tom - April 20th, 2022 at 12:51pm

I appreciate your comment about continuing to assess how one handles these important transitions, Dan. Calls to mind the need for ritual-an honest sharing-highs and lows-of the shared experience and a blessing of sorts for the parting of ways. Lots to ponder.

Nathan Luitjens - April 19th, 2022 at 6:40pm

The thing that really sticks out to me in this post is the idea of inviting the client to look back and see the progress they have made over the coaching relationship. I think far too often we fail to take stock of where we were and where we have ended up. Sometimes it may seem like we haven't made the progress we wanted to make, but sometimes I think people grow in other areas that allow them to see the world differently and this has changed even what their goals will be moving forward. I think once people see where they have come from, it can also give them the courage to continue the journey alone since now they can see the progress they have made and know that they can do it.

Tom - April 20th, 2022 at 9:51am

I appreciate all the comments and great insights everyone is sharing. It reminds me of the importance of that initial contract whether its pro-bono coaching or not. I always that of that contract mainly for the client's benefit but I see know how important it is for the coach in creating healthy boundaries that create an environment for enabling the best possible outcomes. Helpful for me to remember that's the goal, after all. Its not about making new friends or building a referral base. Its about helping the client reach their preferred future. I'm thankful we'll have time to discuss this more today.

Brian Hooper - April 20th, 2022 at 11:28am

Thanks for this reminder, Tom. For me It goes back to the original coaching definition "partnering with clients..." I look forward to learning more about some aspects of a coaching contract, and am curious how rates are set.

Paul - April 20th, 2022 at 12:51pm

Prior to going into chaplaincy, I did a pretty bad job on ending well. It was during this time that I wanted to end my time at hospice well. I talked to a couple of the other chaplains about how to do this and I produced a good bye video that I think helped end the process for me as well as the department.

I hadn't even thought about this type of goodbye in a coaching relationship. It makes sense that there are a lot of different reasons that the relationship would end. I think it important to end the relationship well though. I loved all the suggestions for little gifts, which is the way that I think I will say goodbye.

Jason D. Bland - April 26th, 2022 at 8:26am

As I consider my time with a recent client that concluded their initial 4 sessions, I couldn’t help but wonder if I was missing out on opportunities to further leverage this relationship. With that in mind, after reading this blog, I wanted to develop some key steps.

1. Contact them via email with a few brief questions such as:

- What worked well for you?

- Are there things I should try in future coaching sessions?

- What did I do that was unproductive?

2. Ask if they feel they’ve met their goals, and grown with purpose and intent.

- If yes, then congratulate the progress…

- If no, then ask if they would like to establish a new coaching agreement…

3. If they found value in our time together, ask if they would like to refer anyone to me.

4. Conclude by summarizing the growth and development I’ve seen… and celebrate their wins.

Remind them that I’m always open to establishing a new agreement, and that I’m always available if they would like to celebrate a new victory with me.

I’m still formulating my exact style & verbiage, but I think this is a good starting point for closing out relationships and maintaining a very positive and professional relationship as we close out the contract.

Amelia - May 3rd, 2022 at 3:01pm

Ending well is just as important and beginning well. Part of ending is normalizing it. Sometimes there can be shame or a sense of feeling bad to end both as the coach AND the client. I think it would be helpful to name ways to end and what to expect when the relationship comes to end in the overarching coaching agreement.

I am getting better at ending relationships in a healthy and life giving way. My modus operando is to simply let the relationship fade away. The "slow fade" does not honor the client and is in conflict with my core belief that everyone matters: their story, their progress, their life. So, NO SLOW FADE!

From the article I really appreciate the idea of a "parting gift". How affirming to someone! It speaks to the adage that "people won't remember what you said but they will remember how you made them feel". The following suggestions from the blog can play a big part in the continuation of the client's development and how they speak of you and your business to others.

'' Offer a parting gift reflect their progress, passions, perspectives, or next step.

I offered parting gifts more frequently when "in person" or onsite coaching was the primary connection point. Now, most coaching is done by phone or Zoom. On occasion, I still offer gifts that may include items such as:

Books that will help them on their journey.

A journal or writing pen (if I knew that journaling was one of the ways they processed their life and learnings).

A short-term subscription to a book club or ministry resource.

A complimentary session with a mentor, counselor, or consultant.

A token gift (usually less than $10) that reflects a gift, passion, or unique perspective I see in them.

Kim Boldt - November 17th, 2022 at 12:17am

I would like the clients to think this contributed significant value to their life, to feel satisfied with the outcomes, and to enjoy new attitudes and habits as a result of the coaching experience.

I will take consistent notes after my coaching sessions to note the progress (and barriers) being made. These notes will includes strengths I see in the client, and hopes for their future.

I really like the idea of ending with a gift. As an avid reader, I would enjoy finding resources that would benefit my clients. Hopefully that would contribute to their sense of being seen and known, and further demonstrate my confidence in their continued ability to change.

Lea Kone - November 20th, 2022 at 4:14pm

This is a great topic. In my experience, I have always felt a bit of reluctance or perhaps embarassment when needing to end a professional relationship - perhaps because or money, having outgrown the relationship etc. I like the idea of going into the coaching relationship - by being clear - this relationship WILL end at some point and we currently have X number of sessions planned for. I might even consider being clear at the very beginning that whenever we meet for the last time we will be doing a celebration and recap.

Wendy Petrochko - November 30th, 2022 at 2:40pm

I would like my clients to think that I served them well in the coaching relationship. I want them to feel that they made an investment in their life, financially and personal growth. I would like clients to recommend me to their friends and to come back to me if they desire additional coaching. Since my business is still in the development stage, I will start well with being authentic and end well with having clients feel heard and offered hope. I am going to start with my practice knowing that I might not be a good fit for all clients so I would like to build my coaching connections in order to refer people to either another coach, counselor, or mentor. In ending a coaching relationship I can see how the training that I have had in Stephen Ministry will help me end well. The one thing that I can start doing now to end the coaching relationship is to know that one of the goals is for my clients to no longer need a coach. I think I would start talking about that process in the beginning of a coaching relationship.

Jeff Smith - December 3rd, 2022 at 9:48am

This is something I've been pondering- how do you know when a coaching relationship should end and who initiates the ending. This blog brings up some more obvious times (when not a good fit, when client is uncoachable, etc.) But I wonder about when a client is working on a big goal, or moving slowly, or one topic of need moves to the next continuously. Is the onus on the coach or the client to bring coaching to an end?

Tom Pietz - December 4th, 2022 at 4:48pm

What do you want your clients to THINK, FEEL, and DO and the end of the coaching relationship? I want people to feel a sense of "Wow, God did a mighty thing in those moments that led me from this particular struggle or ambition, to a fulfillment of a goal, vision or dream now being lived out."

What are you doing now to start and end well? What will you KEEP doing?

My intent is to set up longer term coaching relationships for several sessions to help people get their lives in order to live life more fully, more abundantly, more complete or holistically healthy in the Lord.

What will you START or STOP doing to improve how how begin and end coaching relationships?

I will start coaching relationships by helping people "begin with the end in mind"...what is their HOPE, their VISION, their DREAM that they'd like to be living into by the time we complete our journey together.

What's the ONE THING you can do now to improve the way you end well with your clients?

I love the idea of leaving the client with a gift, particularly a book, that may enhance their journey and a hook to by a free session to meet together in 6 months.

Shannon Guse - April 22nd, 2023 at 1:35pm

At the end of a coaching relationship, I hope my clients will be able to recognize small steps they can take to accomplish any task and know that having an accountability partner or source of support can aid their forward movement. If the clients have experienced true transformation, they will be able to celebrate their achievements.

Most of my time coaching has been with cohorts so they have a set start and end date. Throughout the weeks of coaching, I communicate the goals and expectations and follow up each session with an email regarding our agreed upon norms and goals.

I recently started coaching an individual and while I covered all the important pieces of what coaching is and isn't and verbally agreed upon a contract, I need to start our next meeting with a written contract.

Follow up with each client, both individual clients and cohort clients, can be done periodically after the contract has ended. I want my clients to know that I am in their corner and continue to root for their success after our official coaching relationship has ended.

Julie Gvillo - May 2nd, 2023 at 3:57pm

The written agreement ... i have *GOT* to do that!

Julie Gvillo - May 2nd, 2023 at 3:56pm

At the end of a coaching relationship, I would want coachees to feel supported, empowered, and excited about the work they have done and about moving forward. I want them to think in new ways about the challenges they face and be open to trying new things, and I want them to take action steps that move them forward as a result of becoming unstuck.

The coaching relationships I have begun since class started have been coaching cohorts with the Office of Christian Formation. In each of those, I have sent introductory letters (created by the OCF) and created Google doc intake forms that were emailed out. The forms aren't working well in that I'm not getting much feedback, so I'm going to rethink that. The one ending, though, went well, as we celebrated the shifts in assumptions, approaches, and actions that moved folks forward. That is definitely a piece I will keep.

I am going to start having the initial private conversation with cohort members prior to the beginning of the cohort as Dr. Villanueva has suggested to clarify expectations, and ensure better participation in the cohorts throughout their duration.

One thing I can do now to ensure I end a coaching relationship well is to take notes in such a way as to look for places we might revisit in the future and ask the question if the timing is right to explore that thing I find in the notes that we didn't explore.

Kim - May 3rd, 2023 at 12:56pm

So many relationships end poorly or abruptly. With coaching, we have the opportunity to provide healthy, hopeful closure for our clients. If we can keep the end in mind from the very beginning, we are setting up a relationship where the client is not reliant on the coach for answers. The client comes to see themselves as the expert and the coach as a partner/guide. By having clearly defined agreements and check-ins, the client is also aware of the number of agreed upon sessions and the possibility of this relationship ending. Together, the coach and client reflect on what they accomplished, the strengths of the client and share hopes for the future. Modeling how to end a relationship is a life skill that will not only serve the client well in future coaching agreements, but also in life. Thank you for being on this journey with me. I wish you well.

Becky D'Angelo-Veitch - May 3rd, 2023 at 8:28pm

While reading this post, I couldn't but help think if Priya Parker's book, "The Art of Gathering" that discusses the importance of gathering with intention, including among other things, ending a gathering well. The idea of a party fizzling out or having guests 'ghost' their host is one that Parker rebelled against. Ending well is important. I imagine that the same could be true of coaching. I know that I saw a spiritual director for a time, and eventually we kind of fizzled, out, but I really would have preferred closure. In reading this article, I was thinking that the initial contract IS important, and thinking of setting terms for re-evaluating are equally important. All of that to say, I feel like I am not totally sure how this will work in my coaching practice.

I would want my clients to feel as though they have brought something to completion at the end of our coaching relationship--rather than simply no longer calling me for appointments, I would like to end well in a way that makes them feel satisfied with the work they have done, and feel a sense of accomplishment, empowerment, and completion. It is too early to know what I do well because aside from cohorts (as Julie and Shannon mentioned) I have not ended any coaching relationships. With cohorts, we all went in knowing that there was a limited time. Mostly my cohorts have not decided to continue meeting, which I think is OK, yet, I did not feel a total sense of closure. I usually use the same blessing to end all of my cohorts, but I wonder if some sort of ritual might bring more meaning to that. I am going to ponder what that might be, and how I might think about a similar ritual or ending for one-on-one coaching relationships.

Tony Myles - May 4th, 2023 at 2:34am

What do you want your clients to THINK, FEEL, and DO and the end of the coaching relationship?

- Honestly, I don't want to manipulate their thoughts, feelings or actions but want them to name these. In doing so, I would expect it's a positive step forward.

What are you doing now to start and end well? What will you KEEP doing?

- I have really learned to trust the questions. They're incredibly helpful and I will keep doing that.

What will you START or STOP doing to improve how how begin and end coaching relationships?

- I need to start not questioning myself and my newness to coaching, and simply jump in and end strong with professional confidence.

What's the ONE THING you can do now to improve the way you end well with your clients?

- I want to consider how to delegate additional coaching topics into future sessions.

Nicole - May 16th, 2023 at 4:30pm

The only experience I have so far with ending the coaching relationship comes from leading time-bound cohorts. In that situation, I use the last session to recap, to point out gifts, strengths, and growth in each person in front of the entire group, offer a blessing for them, and set up a time 6 months out for everyone to reconnect again. I also offer to connect individually if anyone would like to pursue individual coaching going forward.

Mel Tubb - May 17th, 2023 at 5:24am

What do you want your clients to THINK, FEEL, and DO and the end of the coaching relationship?

Think: Coaching is such a helpful tool! My life is better for having experienced it.

Feel: I feel like I have control over more of my life!

Do: I'm going to tell people how great coaching is, keep working on the things I identified in coaching sessions, and contact Mel if something comes up that I could use coaching support for.

What are you doing now to start and end well? What will you KEEP doing?

I'm planning on setting up clear expectations from the start. We will have 6 sessions and check in.

D Matty - May 20th, 2023 at 4:39pm

What a win when the client can articulate their growth and success. I would ask questions that would allow them to do just that. I also like the idea of a token or gift, sort of a small graduation gift. It's a nice touch in finalizing this chapter of the coach-client relationship. As someone else mentioned, I would want to talk about when the coaching relationship will end well before it does, allowing the client to give me feedback, ask final questions, and let me know if they want to either continue our coaching on a different issue or my recommendation to them of a potential next step with another coach, mentor, counselor, or consultant.

Charity - June 20th, 2023 at 9:56pm

At the end of a coaching relationship, I'd want to hear from clients how they've grown in confidence, in God, or in skills, etc. And then I'd want them to know that I'm always there for them as well.

Madeline Alvarez - June 21st, 2023 at 10:01am

What do you want your clients to THINK, FEEL, and DO and the end of the coaching relationship?

• I want them to:

o Think: Coaching is so transformative.

o Feel: I feel that I have grown and am able to work towards my goals.

o Do: I have to refer some people.

What are you doing now to start and end well? What will you KEEP doing?

• Intake session with clear expectations.

What will you START or STOP doing to improve how to begin and end coaching relationships?

• Make notes of shifts, actions, next steps, learnings and growth.

What's the ONE THING you can do now to improve the way you end well with your clients?

• Reflect with the client his/her learnings and growth.

Matthew May - November 7th, 2023 at 11:17am

I hope that my clients feel like we fulfilled the agreements we made at the beginning of the coaching journey. I want them to feel like they made valuable steps to bettering their future. Through the process, I hope to give them tools for ensuring they can carry out what they decide is what they want to do.