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4 Reasons to Have Time Buffers Between Therapy Sessions

In a previous post on time management, I’ve mentioned implementing a buffer between sessions as a way to better manage one’s schedule. However, I’ve had colleagues tell me that this will not work for them due to other demands (both from work and personal life). These colleagues tend to schedule back-to-back sessions with the goal of wrapping up their day early. This may work for some, but if you’re like me and need that bit of extra time to write your note, mentally decompress, or to take a bio break (thanks small bladder), I highly recommend having a 10- to 15-minute buffer between sessions.

Reason 1: Sessions sometimes run over

As much as therapists preach about boundaries, session time boundaries are sometimes bent or straight up crossed. At best, you may have some follow-up questions or topics at the end that you want to address. (I’m guilty of being that client with my own therapist.) At worst, you may have a safety concern reported by a client that requires some planning or further work.

For issues that may be addressed further, try re-establishing the session time boundary. For example, state, “I hate to cut you off but I have to wrap up our session. Let’s go ahead and schedule our next one, and I’ll make a note of this topic for next time.” You may also agree to call a client at a different time, especially if there is a safety concern that needs to be addressed. It’s rare that I have to cancel another client’s session to address immediate safety concerns of a present client, but know that it’s an option if your clinical judgment is telling you it’s needed.

Reason 2: We may need some extra administrative time

Ever experienced any of the following?

  • Spending too many minutes trying to figure out how you’re going to fit a client into your schedule.

  • Double-checking a clinical note to make sure that you’ve included everything (because audits suck).

  • Getting a billing alert, and having to discuss payment issues with a client.

  • Taking extra time to sign paperwork (releases, informed consents, and policy changes, oh my!).

Therapy school did not teach me about the administrative side of therapy. Unless you have access to a fabulous assistant that can take care of all of this stuff for you, it’s best to account for the extra time spent on this side of your practice.

Reason 3: A quick consult might be necessary

Sometimes a client has a question that requires you to research a little further. Simple questions might be related to insurance, such as how many sessions they have covered with you. Complex questions might require a further discussion with a supervisor or fellow therapists. If you’re not in an office setting where you might be able to pop into a therapist’s open door for a quick consult, take a minute to shoot an email requesting some follow-up.

Reason 4: We need breaks too!

We need our breaks to breathe, stretch our legs, grab some water, use the bathroom, or do whatever it is that helps us to replenish our energy. It’s hard to “shake” a session and then arrive fresh and ready for a new one. If you do happen to have back-to-back appointments booked, find a tool that will help you to mentally transition. Keep a worry stone available, a post-it note with a mantra, or a lavender-scented candle available to sniff as a way to quickly release some tension.

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