Talkative clients can be hard to manage. We feel torn—not wanting to be rude, yet knowing they risk wasting valuable time. Actively managing the flow of conversation will make your sessions more effective and build your clients’ communication skills at the same time.
Here are three tips to help you manage talkative clients:
Set an agenda at the start of each session to keep you and your client on track, and allow you to redirect the conversation if needed. The agenda should be negotiated. Add your ideas, too. Once you’ve defined the primary focus, note this down and refer to it throughout the session.
Learn to interrupt your clients politely and efficiently. If done gently and thoughtfully, most people don’t mind, and in fact, welcome the guidance. After all, both of you want to make the most of the time available. Take control to steer the conversation into deeper issues, saying something like: “I’m sorry, can I just pause you for a moment? Something you just said seemed important. Could we explore it a little more?” Or simply, “Hang on, can I just slow you down here for a second?” It is never rude to be curious about your client’s struggle.
Model slowing down and being concise. Many clients don’t know what to talk about or how to make the most of their time in therapy, so they add detail, hoping that more is better. When they skip from one topic to the next, or give too much detail, it can keep them away from deeper issues. Teach them to slow down, pay attention, and focus on what’s important. Learning to stay on track, slow down, and focus on what’s important will be helpful in other areas of your client’s life, too.
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.