The space between a session and life

In my practice, I have often found that clients are continuously challenged with the space between the end of the session and re-entering the ‘outside world’.


When the therapist calls time, the client has to leave the room (real or virtual) and walk out into the world. In my experience, this moment is significant to the client, the therapist and the work that is happening. How can we manage that transition?

Therapy sessions are experienced differently by everybody. However, I feel that most people who have been to therapy can agree that meetings can be challenging and they can leave us feeling quite vulnerable. We are, after all, looking at our emotions and experiences, things that are very real to us. So, when the 50 minutes are up and we have to end the conversation, it can feel like we suddenly have to re-compose ourselves and get back to reality. I know I’ve felt like that.

I thought it might be helpful to dedicate a blog to this moment, the time between the end of a session and re-entering the ‘outside world’. I am going to look at this phenomenon from the therapists perspective and that of the client. I hope to shed some light on what this might feel like for both sides, as well as offer tips on what we can do to allow ourselves a bit of a buffer between being in and out of therapy

The clients perspective

As the 50 minutes are coming to an end, the therapist will call time and rather quickly we have to leave the room, but what you have spoken about is still there, there is no magic light switch that we can just turn off. 

If, for example, I have just spent time thinking about, exploring and experiencing feelings around something painful to me, it can feel hard to then go straight into a work meeting or a dinner with friends. 

What can we do? In order to anticipate this experience, it is important to give yourself time between the end of a session and whatever you have to do next. 

Take a walk, have a cup of tea, write in a journal, do some exercise, listen to some music or have a sleep. 

Give yourself time. 

You might find that the time you give yourself works both emotionally and cognitively. On a practical level you might be able to think about what you have learned, what emerged, what worked and what didn’t. Ask yourself, what resonated with you from that session? What feelings are you left with and why? 

Spending time thinking about these questions and the process you allow yourself togo through straight after the session might end up being significant to the therapeutic process. 

From the therapist's perspective

Firstly, I feel it necessary to remind ourselves that boundaries and framework are essential to the therapeutic work, so therapists will want to end the session at 50 minutes (give or take). No matter how hard a session might be, it is considered part of the therapy to end on time. 

Therapists train for many years and during that time, they are required to go to therapy themselves. They are therefore aware of how difficult ending a session can be, from a client’s perspective. During their training, therapist also dedicate a considerable amount of time practicing and developing an awareness of time and how to manage it during a session. When the meeting is drawing to a close, therapists may use supporting tactics. 

In my practice, depending on the session, I use different ending tools. I might, for example, warn the client that there are a few minutes to the end of the meeting, giving myself and the client a chance to discuss what is happening in the moment. I often ask clients how they are feeling now and allow a minute or two to talk about it together. The hope is to provide a breather before leaving and an opportunity to talk about the ‘here and now’ together. 

Don’t forget that the therapist is in the room with you and will most likely feel very engaged with what you are saying. Therapy is relational after all. 

The therapist will often also need a 10 minute break between sessions. This might be to take notes, check notes for the next client but it also can be a moment to just digest what has just happened. How the therapist feels during a session is important to the work. 

In my practice, between clients, what I do will vary hugely depending on the session, client and what has been spoken about. At times, I have found myself almost havinga physical reaction to the session, literally wanting to shake it off. Every so often, I have felt emotional and have had to take a few deep breaths to ‘take it in’. How therapists work, think about sessions and manage time will vary hugely. 

However, one thing that most therapists will observe and record is their reaction to a session, as this can be useful to the therapy itself. 

Perhaps the aim for the therapist and the client, is not to suppress what is happening in therapy, as it is ending and straight after it has happened. The point is probably not to go with the ‘light switch’ approach and turn everything off but allow space and time to gradually step back into the world taking an account of how youdo it and your feelings whilst doing it. Allowing time to process your feelings and reactions after the session could be helpful and worth taking in. I do realise this is not always possible but perhaps it is something valuable to strive for. 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London, Greater London, W11 2DA
Written by Carla Vercruysse
London, Greater London, W11 2DA

I have always believed that talking is therapeutic. In moments of difficulty in my life, talking has been the most powerful tool and I am passionate about others having that same experience. I am a UKCP qualified psychotherapist, I have started my own podcast: Finding Psychotherapy and would love to write about the topic I am so passionate about.

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