Many therapists struggle to stick to their schedule, regularly finishing their sessions late. This has a personal cost: missing breaks or running late will make your day much more stressful and exhausting. Somehow, you must balance your deep desire to help with the need to protect your own well-being.
To finish your sessions on time, try these three strategies:
Tip #1: Structure your sessions.
Open with a warm welcome and an agreed-upon agenda—this only takes a few minutes to work out. Wrapping up, summarizing the learning, and agreeing on any next steps will take about ten minutes. This only leaves about thirty-five to forty minutes to explore issues and try new activities. It’s here that you can lose track of time, but if you stick to your agenda, you can accomplish a great deal.
Tip #2: Actively manage the flow of content.
Many clients will skip from one topic to another, leaving their most important issue to the last ten minutes. To address it, you must then go overtime. Instead, slow the client down on sensitive topics, and redirect them when they get off track. Since the purpose of your time together is to create positive changes in your client’s life, a lot of detail often isn’t needed. Clients will appreciate you gently directing the conversation as they will know you are deeply listening.
Tip #3: Be willing to be uncomfortable.
Our work has a high degree of uncertainty, and we fight this by trying to make sense of complexity and give good advice. It is an enormous challenge to make room for the discomfort of loose ends, unresolved issues, and undiscovered solutions, yet you must if you are to finish on time. Let go of unrealistic expectations that you will solve every issue and focus on being useful, not perfect.
Jennifer Kemp, MPsych, is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Adelaide, South Australia. Kemp works with adults and adolescents on issues such as perfectionism, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (ODC), eating disorders, and chronic illness. Kemp uses acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) to help people notice their experiences, make conscious choices “in the moment,” and take action toward a fulfilling life.