Ending Counselling Sessions Smoothly
There is no particular hard-and-fast rule for ending a counselling session, but terminating a session does require skill, experience, and practice. It may be even more challenging when using a non-directive approach such as person-centered theory. Nevertheless, there is a beginning, a middle, and an end to all effective counselling sessions. It is during the time when contracting and informed consent is being discussed that the length of the session should be made clear to the client.
The non-directive person-centered therapist needs to observe essential commencement and ending principles. Despite research evidence showing that spontaneity from the non-directive approach often evokes great personal insight for the client, the person-centered therapist must know when to wrap up the session and end it. However, technique is subordinate to the therapist’s attitude during the counselling session. In addition, defining the goals for each individual session will provide the therapist with an effective approach for commencing and ending the session.
Some approaches the person-centered therapist can use to help wrap-up a session are reframing, summarising, encouraging reflection, employing more close-ended rather than open-ended questions, and displaying body language that provides comfort to clients. The therapist must be able to demonstrate empathy and unconditional positive regard throughout to the end to the session. The manner must be authentic stemming from the genuineness of the therapist.
Reframing the salient points can help the client receive insights to move forward, providing clearer perspectives on prevailing issues. The counsellor can reflect on snippets of verbal information provided by the client and skillfully present the information in a way that enlightens and brings deeper insights for the client. This method helps the client to see situations clearer and think about better ways to handle them. Active listening is critical during the session to bring meaningful closure.
Summarising helps the counsellor to affirm whether they have accurately interpreted what the client has shared during the session. Dr. Christian Conte in the book entitled ‘Advanced Techniques for Counseling and Psychotherapy’ refers to summarising as a “compendium of previously reported statements.” In many cases, clients gain greater insight into an issue as they hear the therapist repeat what they have shared. Summarising is an effective technique for bringing sessions to an end in a way that demonstrates empathy towards the client. It also leaves them feeling heard.
The therapist can indicate at the point of summarising how much time is left before the counselling session ends. This gently prepares the client for the termination of the session. Since the person-centered therapeutic relationship is so intimate, there may be some difficulty with ending the session, but a skilled therapist will be able to manage the termination smoothly and in a way that leaves the client feeling ‘held.’
Christian, C. (2009). Advanced Techniques for Counseling and Psychotherapy. New York: Springer Publishing Company.