One of my favorite books ever written by a psychotherapist is called: "Is There Life After Analysis?" by Alma Bond, Ph. D.
Here's what Dr. Bond had to say about what makes for a successful course of therapy:
“...the ability to understand oneself, to love, to hate, to work, to mourn, to allow oneself pleasure when appropriate, to maintain a relatively stable mood, to know who one is and be comfortable with it, to see oneself and the world realistically, to be independent of one's parents or one's therapist, to remain emotionally and physically healthy in the face of anxiety and the ‘slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’, and to take over the role of the therapist when the treatment is over. In a manner of speaking, the primary motive of psychotherapy is to make the therapist obsolete.”
Yes! I have frequently said that if I am doing my job as a therapist correctly, I am continually putting myself out of business! [I refer you to my Stages of Healing piece for my take on the final stages of therapy even after you've stopped seeing a therapist.]
Now, notice that Alma doesn't say that one has to be issue-free to be done with therapy, but rather that one has to be able to honestly see oneself and be able to treat/confront the issues when they show themselves.
Here's more from Dr. Bond on what takes the place of analysis after it is completed:
“The definitive answer to the question of what takes place after therapy can only be answered by the character of the individual patient. Every patient who ends therapy will do something different with his life. My first result was that I became my own therapist. I began to work on my dreams in earnest. I also had more time and energy to throw myself into my career. In two years, I doubled my therapy practice, then went onto writing. Now, in present time, in this new era of my life, the force of energy I once devoted to therapy, and before that to being neurotic, is now focused on my writing career. I feel it is fueled by exactly the same source of power. We only have so much of it; if it is going into conflict, it is unavailable for work. Some will spend this energy enriching their family life, others in deepening their knowledge of the interest of their choice. Some may change their careers altogether. Still others may buy themselves the time and leisure to travel...”
How great, huh? To have all that energy back? Energy that was first locked up in our neurotic defenses and character structures, and then the energy that had to be devoted to the hard excavation and demolition work of those structures in therapy. That's a lot of energy! Having all of that back can do wonders for fulfilling oneself sexually and in love, in health and in our chosen paths to creativity and generativity. Yeah, that's what I'm talking about! So, come on people, put me out of business already!
I just want to add a note about meditation here. Many people I know who are following some kind of spiritual path end up feeling very frustrated. They've read The Course in Miracles or Conversations With God or watched The Secret a hundred times and they just seem unable to make use of the Laws of Attraction. Well, here's the thing - all of the promises contained in those and many other spiritual teachings are real. We are meant to attain the fulfillment of our deepest desires, and we do create and/or attract our own reality. And meditation does "work." In fact, there's a cute little piece from the Huffington Post, called "How Meditation Makes You Nicer."
BUT... and it's a big but... you are always going to create and attract from your unconscious and subconscious first, so if there is a lot of conflict and negativity in there, you're going to find a lot of crap coming into your life before any good stuff does. You can't wallpaper over the unresolved issues, even with a valid meditation practice. You might achieve some level of "niceness" and glimpses of peacefulness, but it won't last. That's where the hard work of therapy comes in. I wish there was another way, but there aren't any end runs around this, and there arean't any magic pills! However, after therapy, watch what happens when you meditate for real. It's easy. All you need is love.
P.S. Last I heard, Alma Bond was alive and well and writing in the Florida Keys.
I'm coming, Alma!