John's Blog

The Blog of John Gibson, PhD

The Blog of John Gibson, PhD

The Use of Time Orientation in Your Therapy Sessions

The PAST is useful for...
  • Identifying patterns of behavior, emotion, or thought.
  • Understanding your working model of human relationships (via relations w/ caregivers)
  • Grasping the origins of a concern or problem
  • Gaining perspective on your life (i.e., the big picture; the past is a rich source of data)

FUTURE is useful for...
  • Sorting out goals, projects, plans
  • Building motivation (“What do you really want?”)
  • Making life-course corrections

PRESENT is useful for...
  • Understanding the factors that are maintaining a concern or problem (“What’s holding you back?”
  • Understanding what you are feeling –– right now, in session, this moment
  • Taking stock of where you are (psychologically speaking)

In therapy, we usually attend to all three orientations. Depending on the issue or concern, one orientation might get more attention than the others, but that doesn’t mean you, as client, can’t choose to shift orientations from time-to-time to keep the sessions fresh and productive.

Moreover, never under-estimate the power of the present moment, especially in a session. Talking about problems will often generate strong emotions. It can be extraordinarily helpful to focus on these emotions
as they occur.