5 Things To Do When Your Session Takes A Turn South

Hi SLP friends!   

Let's chat about 5 things to do when your session takes a turn south. Look, you’ll here me repeat this so often on the podcast but it’s a point I really want you to remember. We are not all perfect. Every single therapist you know has a session that wasn’t great or has had sessions that just take a downward spiral. That’s normal! As you become a more seasoned therapist though, you’ll start to learn tricks to keep those sessions afloat or start to learn signs that your session is about to take a turn south and make immediate decisions to help prevent that. BUT when all else fails and we completely lose control of a session or it just takes a sharp turn south, these are 5 things we can do to help.

1. Take a break

If your session takes a sharp turn south or it feels overwhelming for the both of you, or things just aren’t going great for whatever reason, its OKAY to take a breather. Your break could look different depending on what’s going on. Maybe your client could use a sensory break, maybe you’re just going to let them have a break and play independently with whatever you have out, maybe you do something fun together but with no demands placed, maybe you turn on some music or take some deep breaths…or maybe you just do absolutely nothing. But a break can really do some positive work in your sessions and it can be that turning factor where you can move forward in a positive manner.

2. Ask yourself what you can do to turn the session around

If you’ve listened to other podcasts or know me over on social media as speech.tea, you know I say this a lot. You have to ask yourself what can YOU change, don’t blame it on the client. There are always things we can do to improve the session. Whether that be the task demands, sensory supports, the environment, the list goes on. But if you take that break, sit there and think. What can I do right now after this break is over to turn this around.

3. Bring out a strong, high interest activity

If you just really lost your client, let’s bring out a material that is highly engaging to them. This is also when its really helpful to know your clients. What do they like? What do they enjoy? If they love dinosaurs or trucks, how can we incorporate that? A lot of times when we bring out these high interest materials, no matter how simple they are, we are then able to not only engage them again, but also sneak back in the speech and language concepts we are working on.

4. Focus on rapport

If you know you are absolutely not getting anywhere during the session as far as the specific target sounds go or the language concept you are working on and it is just a really really rough session, I think it is 100% okay to just focus on building rapport. Because if you lose rapport, your next session, isn’t going to be any better. We want our clients to WANT to come to speech, we want them to have fun, we want them to like it, and we want them to feel comfortable with us. So if you’re losing that, that’s top priority. And don’t forget, even if you aren’t explicitly targeting goals by eliciting things, you absolutely can still model and bombard them with their goals while being natural with it at the same time. That bombardment and that modeling without expecting anything from them is still extremely beneficial.

5. End on a positive note

This is reallllly important. No matter how poorly your session goes, its imperative that we end on a positive note because that’s the last association with the session before next time. Again, we want them to want to come back. We don’t want to leave them with negative feelings both about therapy and how their therapist feels towards them. So lower demands at the end if you need to, give positive talk, say that you know today was a little hard but you are excited to see them when they come see you again and how much fun you’re going to have together. Again, we just want to be positive.

So that’s my 5 things you can do when a session turns south. I hope that was helpful and remember, you’re going to have bad sessions throughout your career but a bad session doesn’t make you a bad therapist.

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