Hello, Goodbye (ending sessions)

Working in a solution focused way, I think of every session with a client as an opportunity to reach a point of realisation that everything needed to achieve the desired outcome is present.

I view any single session as potentially all that’s needed to reach that point, and therefore can always be the last session.

This is largely based on my perspective that change is not really something that happens gradually or incrementally, but instantaneously once everything needed is in place and the final realising catalyst is added. As my friend Elliott Connie often puts it “you’re never more than one question away from changing a person’s life”.

For this reason, I don’t wish to communicate any doubt that the client has the independent capability to achieve what they hope to as the session comes to an end.

I regard subsequent sessions as another attempt to reach that realisation, rather than the more traditional concept of a “follow up” (which implies a more ongoing, rather than momentary process).

So how best to communicate this belief in/recognition of the clients capability as the session ends?

Clearly, to set a task or make any suggestion would be undermining and contradictory to such belief, so we could simply say “well we’re about out of time, would you like to book another appointment?”.

That about covers it, yet I personally can’t help but feel there’s still a slight danger that such a question could be construed as an implication that we think another session might be needed (as it’s presented as a binary choice, with the affirmative inherently emphasised), so I’m currently more inclined to say “do you feel like you have all you need, or would you like to book another appointment?”.

It’s a subtle edit. It is still binary, but perhaps more balanced and less potentially leading, as it communicates some expectancy of recognised capability, with minimal doubt beyond that inherent in asking the question, whilst allowing for the whole spectrum of confidence on the clients part.

There’s also the option of making the question more open, if this feels important in the moment, by adding “you can always cancel if it turns out that you don’t need it after all”, or “if you’re not sure right now, you could just see how things go and book another if you feel you need to”.

Perhaps an even better ending can be made possible through the utilisation of an automated booking system, so that we can simply end a session by saying “feel free to book another appointment any time if you ever think it’s necessary”, which might potentially further reduce the risk of a client’s choice of whether to book another session being influenced by what they imagine our ‘expert opinion’ is.

I think this is a risk we really do need to mitigate, by the way, because one of the evidenced truths that has guided the development of the solution focused approach, as well as other progressive approaches, is that the greatest expertise in establishing what would be a good choice for someone to make, given what they ultimately desire to experience in their life, resides entirely within them, not us.

I also think it’s equally important that we allow them to decide on the timescale between sessions, should they decide to book another, for the same reason – essentially that they have a more accurate instinct for what they need than we do, so if we cast doubt on that instinct by suggesting a timescale according to our opinion, we’re introducing a counter productive element. The only boundary we might honestly put around the timescale would be according to our availability (which we still have some control over anyway according to our workload, priorities, other commitments and own needs).

I’d be interested to hear how other practitioners approach the ending of sessions in a way which honours the preceding empowering elements of conversation. Please use the comments section below, or contact me via any of my social media channels if you would like to contribute to further discussion around this topic, or indeed anything else related to Solution Focused Practice.

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