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Let’s Do The Therapy Time-Warp Again!

When I am in my therapist’s office, there is a definite time warp happening where fifty minutes can feel like fifty seconds.   If you want to slow down this process, just do some exercise with them.  Especially if you loathe physical jerks and find that the time just drags on when you are walking, jogging, bike-riding, playing tennis, doing push-ups or going for the burn at aerobics.

This is where that most peculiar and oppositional phenomena known as therapy time-warp, the parallel universe of the perceptual fourth dimension of time and space between the rapture of therapy and the abomination of exercise, tend to even themselves out and you are finally able to experience what real time feels like in therapy.

When two people get thoroughly engaged in a conversation and it flows to the extent you can feel and see the sparks flying across in the space between them, time is lost forever in the moment.  If the conversation drags or is awkward and there is not enough connection, each second can drag like a two year old in the chocolate aisle at the supermarket.

One day last year, I got a text message from my therapist early in the morning.  Did I want to go for a walk during the therapy hour?  Many years ago when I had cancer I asked her the same question.  Could we conduct therapy outside her office in the park or by the beach?  She said it would not be a good idea and felt therapy should always be conducted in her office – perhaps she could have been right.  But as it was I reacted in the only way I knew how to back in 2005, and took an overdose of sleeping pills which ended up with me in a psychiatric hospital (again).   I have since learned many coping skills from her in the face of rejection and perceived abandonment.

This time I sat down and thought about it carefully before replying all the while knowing of course the answer would be yes.  I also detested the fact that she had all the power to grant me that wish now – but to deny it back then.

It was a kind of surreal experience walking up the street with someone who only exists in an office between nine and five and files herself away for the rest of the week.  It’s an even stranger experience when two men and a dog started to chat us up on the way back.

I was very worried about several things.  One was that I would not be able to keep up.  Another because I had the beginnings of bronchitis (I did not know this at the time, I thought it was just a cold) and that I would cough and pass wind at the same time (my children call this a cougher-farter) and totally embarrass myself.

As it turned out she was the one puffing and panting by the time we reached the top of the hill and thank goodness neither of us passed wind so that was not an issue.  We got back with twenty minutes to spare.

The point I am making is that those forty minutes felt like two hours and I really enjoyed myself.  That was a year ago and I have had very little hankering to repeat the experience.  I did wonder whether or not that walk would be the catalyst that would launch a thousand transferences but no, it was pleasant and I have fond memories, but we both belong in her office and we both know that.

So time has a different meaning out in the open as opposed to in the office.  I’d be interested to know how therapists experience time.  After all they can spend up to nine separate therapy hours per day with clients in various stages of distress.  Does it slow down with certain clients (such as unenlightened, self-absorbed, contemptuous and nit-picking narcissists) or does it speed up with beguiling and seductive borderline clients who are provocative, engaging and entertaining with the most remarkable ability to mesmerize the therapist into simpering, giggling coquettishness?

So let’s do the therapy time-warp again!  Your thoughts and feelings would be most appreciated.

Let’s Do The Therapy Time-Warp Again!

Sonia Neale

Sonia Neale was recently awarded the Inaugural Barbara Hocking SANE Australia Fellowship to study and research Borderline Personality Disorder overseas in the USA, Canada, UK and Ireland. Her previous Psych Central blog was called Therapy Unplugged. She is the author of two books, The Bad Mother’s Revenge and Death by Teenager, both published by ABC Books/Harper Collins. She lives in Western Australia, is married with three adult children, has studied psychoanalytic psychotherapy, has a Certificate IV in Mental Health and is studying for a Psychology/Counselling degree. She currently works as a peer support worker in the mental health field.

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APA Reference
Neale, S. (2011). Let’s Do The Therapy Time-Warp Again!. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 30, 2020, from


Last updated: 24 May 2011
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