When a client begins their therapeutic journey, there also begins a negotiation about time. In order for a series of sessions to happen, two people have to find a way of being available to each other, repeatedly, for a reasonable length of time.
Some therapists have a strict set of rules governing how a course of therapy is to be booked. In my view, this can impoverish the counselling relationship, and reduce the scope for self-discovery on the part of the client. I often find that the negotiation surrounding time – mutual availability, cost, session length, course length, termination – is enlghtening for both parties. It seems a shame to curtail the mutual learning in favour of over-control by the therapist.
There follow a few examples of how different approaches to time can emerge, and what that may mean.
MAKING YOURSELF AVAILABLE
As a client, you may find yourself, initially, strangely unable to find an appropriate, repeatable space in your week for therapy. This can be a learning in itself. You might discover that your life has little, if any, give in it, and your busy-ness dominates you.
You may find yourself testing the therapist, without really realising that this is what you are doing. In your past, you may have been let down, or over-controlled: if so, then when you come to counselling, you may find yourself struggling to trust another human to agree a regular schedule with you.
As counselling progresses, you may discover a way of scheduling in time that works for you. You may have to review how busy you are, or push yourself out of your comfort zone.
AGREEING THE TIME PARAMETERS
You may also find that your relationship with the counsellor reflects your relationship with other humans in your normal day-to-day life.
Many anxious clients, who rush from activity to activity in their habitual week, find themselves, initially, rushing to and from counseling sessions, as though they were grand prix races. It can take some time to realise that someone has time for you, and that it is OK to stop the world, and all its demands, for a while.
Equally, sometimes a depressed client will be reluctant to leave the counselling room. It provides company, safety and security – all valuable commodities when you are feeling in despair. This is totally fine… but over time, as the depression lifts, many clients find themselves recovering their ability to take the initative, and move away, at the end of a session.
What is your time-relationship with other people? For example:
are you a hard person to catch, always a victim of a busy schedule?
are you a difficult person to leave, always continuing a conversation until the latest possible time?
We all have a time-relationship with each other. Therapy is no different, and it can be interesting to see how clients manage the negotiation – how available they make themselves; and how they manage, and relate to, the space that is a counselling session.
In particular, we can all learn two things:
how we habitually relate to others via our diaries – how available we are to each other, and
how quick or slow we are in leaving others’ company – how anxious we are to wrap things up; or how reluctant to leave