Many of you requested that I cover the topic of how to end therapy sessions on time.
If I’m completely honest, I’m not the best at ending therapy sessions on time! 😬
So I invited you on Instagram to offer your tips and tricks for how to end therapy sessions on time and compiled your answers together in this article.
Ending on time is not at all one of my personal strengths. My “50-minute” sessions often stretch into 60 minutes. So I needed this article just as much as anyone else!
Why Therapy Sessions Don’t End on Time
Before we dive into your awesome tips, I want to go over some of the main reasons why sessions tend to go over-time:
1. The client pushes the boundary
This happens when a therapist tries their darnedest to end therapy sessions on time but the client keeps on talking, asking questions, or refusing to get up to leave.
2. The therapist can’t hold the boundary
Here’s an example of this: the therapist doesn’t feel confident enough to interrupt the therapeutic process for the sake of ending the session on time. Maybe the client is in the middle of crying or has just struck on a key ah-hah! Moment and the therapist finds it challenging to cut those moments short.
I’ve certainly been there before!
3. The therapist intentionally stretches the time for therapeutic purposes
There are times where intentionally going overtime can be beneficial for the client. In particular, if the client is in danger there may be need to stay with the client while waiting for a loved one to arrive to ensure the client’s safety.
I think it’s important to reflect for yourself which of these you tend towards more often if you’re not ending sessions on time. For me, most of my clients are highly boundaried, so sessions tend to stretch longer because I simply am not holding that boundary.
How to End Therapy Sessions on Time
Keeping in mind the reasons why your sessions might be running long, here are some of the wonderful tips you all offered to help end therapy sessions on time:
- Have a Clock Visible – Many clients will monitor their own time if there’s a clock visible to them. For others, this option may work well in tandem with some of the other tips here.
- Verbal Warning – Five to ten minutes before the end of the session, let the client know that the time is coming to a close shortly. This is particularly helpful for clients who may need help monitoring the boundary of the session ending.
- Shift Direction – Five to ten minutes before the end of the session, initiate a shift in dialogue to focus on the main takeaways from the session and review them rather than continuing to dive deeper into therapeutic content or asking more questions.
- Pull out your Schedule – This is a tried and true strategy that works for most clients. If you reach for your planner to schedule the next appointment without saying anything, most clients will clue in. If they need an extra nudge, you can also say, “shall we take a look at the schedule for our next appointment?”
- Nonverbal Cues – Whether it be closing your notepad, scooting forward in your seat, or flat out standing up and walking to the door, there are various ways you can send nonverbal cues to your clients that it’s time to end. You can use this strategy alone or in tandem with verbal cues.
- Validate and Redirect “door knob” comments– If clients wait until the last minute to bring up key issues, it’s important to validate that you’re glad they brought up the item, and to also note that you’re aware it’s the end of your time for today and you can address the item together in the following session.
- Consider whether you’re reachable between sessions – depending on a client’s needs, this can be a valuable resource. I make myself available for brief phone calls between sessions. If clients are having a tough time with a session ending, I encourage them to sit with what they’re feeling and I remind them that they can reach out to me if needed. Most of the time, simply knowing I’m available is enough to calm them, even if they don’t choose to reach out after all.
Keep in mind that various tips would work better for different clients and different therapeutic orientations. For example, if a client persistently pushes against boundaries, I tend to use a firmer, more direct approach to help end therapy sessions on time. Consider each client’s needs and tailor your approach to each individual.
I hope you found these tips helpful to end sessions on time. Thank you to all of you who offered such helpful tips!
Want more support starting a private practice? I have a free guide for that! Check it out here to grab your free guide: Start a Private Practice in Counseling
Until next time, from one therapist to another: I wish you well!
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