Counselling Boundaries: Time

A learning journal from my counselling training:

After attempting to meet competency 2.1 – Establish boundaries as a helper in a particular setting and within the limits of time available – at the beginning of this course, I can now see why my last journal on this topic was insufficient.

It is only now that I truly feel that I have grasped the importance of setting boundaries within the limits of the time available.  After a couple of months of 15-minute skills practice sessions, where it has been necessary to maintain very firm time boundaries, it has become more evident as to how there is so much more to this topic than time.

Indeed, using a structured framework is very much about ‘holding’ the client within the time and space that is available, allowing them to gain as much as they can from however much time they have. 

This is achieved by keep their time, which is extremely precious, safe. By having a beginning, middle, and end to every session, the client is provided with the message of just how valuable the time that is dedicated to them is.  This value is demonstrated not merely by ensuring sessions don’t over-run, but also that they aren’t cut short.

This deeper understanding has translated into my own personal counselling, where I no longer wait for my counsellor to signal the end of the session.  Most of the time, I find myself winding down the session as it is approaching an end.  Therefore, I can understand how boundaries with time are important to both the counsellor and the client.  In many ways, such boundaries are a sign of respect, as well as a way to commit your undivided attention to the client over a duration that has a clear end point.  In this sense, such a structured framework can also act to create a sense of achievement by the end of the session, however long it is.

Whether it was 15-minutes or 1-hour, that time has been utilised to make an important journey of self-discovery and understanding. 

I make an effort to emphasise this to the helpee during skills practice with comments such as:

  • “We’ve covered a lot today”

  • “You have made a lot of progress during this session”

  • “Well done. You addressed some really difficult feelings today.”

I feel that it is important to end the session in a way that acknowledges the clients journey and validates just how valuable that journey is.

I have found through skills practice that adhering to such a structured framework not only allows me, the helper, to keep any unrelated thoughts and feelings outside of the helpee’s session; it also appears to provide the helpee with a sense of purpose.

By this, I have witnessed how time boundaries empower the helpee to utilise that time in the way that they feel would be most purposeful for them. 

In this sense, time boundaries also act to ensure that the focus of sessions remain on the helpee’s agenda.



Categories: Counselling, Personal/Professional Development

Tags: , , , ,

5 replies

  1. It’s clear that you are gaining a better knowledge of your work now Nicola. It’s easy for a client to try and dictate or push for extra time to discuss what’s gone on in the session.. Sticking to the time-scale gives them more confidence in you, as you’ve pointed out.

  2. Thanks for the encouragement, Susan. Training as a counsellor is such a personal journey – not just professional.

  3. Hi Nicola
    I just started a basic counselling part time course and have no back ground on the subject. I love and enjoy it and have found your materials very useful. How do i quote you from the web

  4. Hi Jacquie. Thank you for taking the time to post. I am so glad you find this blog useful. You have chosen a fantastic course and it will be interesting to see if you take it further 🙂 Do keep me updated. In the meantime, if you ever need to references me, you would put:

    Davies, N. (2014) [Title of post, e.g. Boundaries in counselling]. Health Psychology Consultancy, Accessed online: [add url].

    Hope this helps and good luck with your course!

  5. Hello Nichola, I’ve recently started my introduction to counselling course and I do find your page quite useful. I’m really loving the course tho its a bit tense. I am really finding it difficult to keep a reflective journal.keep up the good work. X

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