If a client brings up an important or highly emotional issue at the end of a session, ask yourself these questions:
- Is this a pattern?
- Is this a rare event?
- Am I holding time boundaries skillfully?
If “doorknob comments” are uncharacteristic for your client, then what’s emerging at the end of your session may be connected solely to what you’ve been exploring together in this specific session. If so:
- Bookmark what your client is sharing for your next session
- Offer your client five or ten extra minutes free of charge to find closure on this issue, and then stick to your adjusted time limit
- Offer your client another fifteen to thirty minutes prorated to address their issue
2. Client Pattern
Whenever a session with this particular client is nearly over, they bring up an important or emotionally charged topic. It’s a pattern. If so:
- Bring the pattern to your client’s attention nonjudgmentally
- Invite your client to discuss this pattern at your next session
- Link the pattern to their goal and commit to exploring any connections when you meet next
You send your client mixed messages about ending sessions on time and they don’t realize that what they’re doing is an issue. If so:
- Be honest with yourself about your time-related boundary issues
- Seek supervision for your boundary challenges related to time and fees
- Give your clients explicit cues when a session is wrapping up
When clients bring up important issues in the last few minutes of a session, it can mean different things. Rather than fearing or judging these moments, get curious about what category a client’s “doorknob comment” or issue falls into and tailor your responses accordingly.
Alicia Muñoz, LPC, is a certified couples therapist, and author of three relationship books. Over the past fifteen years, she has provided individual, group, and couples therapy in clinical settings, including Bellevue Hospital in New York, NY. Muñoz currently works as a couples counselor in private practice. She connects with her readers and followers through monthly blogs, newsletters, podcasts, and radio shows, as well as through Instagram at @aliciamunozcouples, and Facebook and Twitter at @aliciamunozlpc. Muñoz is a member of the Washington School of Psychiatry, the American Psychological Association, and the Mid-Atlantic Association of Imago and Relationship Therapists. She is also an expert contributor to Psychotherapy Networker, www.mindbodygreen.com, and other print and online magazines. You can learn more about her at www.aliciamunoz.com.