I don't take notes during the session, unless I have to remember something specific. I don't use formal language to start and stop session. I never ever have a problem keeping the client involved in the session. I try to deal with the person in front of me rather than with a lot of things that don't have anything to do with her.
I do use some recurring elements to define my session, though. They might not be significant enough for the client to consciously distinguish them, but they are enough to create a session space.
My client is basically involved as soon as she sits in her chair. I have not introduced any formal language use to signify session start, so she doesn't have the concept of "before the session". She walks in, we say hello, she sits down and she is involved.
With a given client we usually always do the session in the same space and we sit in the same chairs. It might be chairs on each side of a table or just across from each other. I don't take notes during the session, so I don't need the table all that much. I might have some sheets with technique procedures, and sometimes I draw on paper to explain something, so it is still nice to have a table.
I would talk as little as possible before the session. Either I would just say hello, or we would engage in some small talk that is unrelated to the client's mind. Mentioning the weather or cracking a joke is fine. Just enough to get the client in the door and down in her chair, feeling welcome and comfortable. I would avoid asking questions like "How are you?" or "How was your week?" before session. That is the kind of stuff I will use as session questions. I would only ask it if I am prepared to help her with it in session.
Most of my sessions then start with simply that I sit down opposite of the client, matching her body posture somewhat, and I look attentively at her. Most people will start talking and tell me what their attention is on. If they mention anything non-optimum that their attention is on, then that is the action we will work on. If they have had a perfectly fine week, and their attention is on nothing but the session, then I will pick a process from one of my general modules.
If the client doesn't start talking, I will of course. If I suspect that there is something specific we should handle, then I ask her. "Is there something you would like to handle today?" I ask this based on her indicators, and based on the past record of how much stuff she runs into in life. If I don't expect anything to handle I might also just tell her what I have in mind as the next thing to do.
I do not work with prepared instructions for what to do. In the previous session I might have written down a suggestion for what to do next, and often that fits well. Or, we are progressing through the steps of a specific module, in which case the next technique on the list will often be appropriate. But aside from that, I start a session with a blank mind. I want to see what kind of person I have in front of me today. I try not to have pre-conceived ideas about what is the matter with her.
So, in the beginning of the session, the initial choice will be whether to deal with a specific issue of the client's or taking up a general process. If the client has a specific issue she has attention on I will always give that precedence. It will bring the greatest gain in the shortest period of time.
Most of the techniques I might use I have used before, so I have an idea of the words I might use. But I don't use rote wordings, particularly not when dealing with a specific issue. For module processes I stay fairly close to the wording as written, but I might emphasize different aspects of the process, depending on what happens.
I don't try in advance to check if a certain question is loaded. I simply ask questions and give directions. If that brings about some change, then we will stay with it as long as it produces change. If it doesn't produce change then I will get on to something else as quickly as possible. Neither the client nor I will keep any attention on the questions that didn't lead anywhere, we simply move on. No reason to apologize or anything, it is part of the procedure to try different things.
We stay with each area as long as it produces change. That is, until there is some kind of a resolution and realization, or until the change in the area appears to be exhausted. The key thing is getting maximum result on the overall issue we are working on. The sub-processes and questions used are simply means of getting there, and should never become more important than the result.
I don't use any particular formal wording to tell the client that she is done with a process. She will generally know when she is done with something. I will just enhance it a bit with some pleasant acknowledgments.
I will typically aim at making the session last about an hour. But my main guideline is to get a significant result with whatever we are working on. If we get a big result on an issue I will not continue with something new after that. If it takes longer than the hour to get a good result I will let it take the time it takes. I will always end the session on a good note of completion.
I don't use any formal language to end the session either. The client will usually already be feeling that we are at a point of completion. I will just do something to break the routine a bit, like look around the room or stand up or something. Or I will start talking about the next appointment.
I would do little talk with the client after the session, even though there isn't particularly any problem doing so. But most of what she has wanted to talk about would have come up in the session already.
After session I would write up my session notes and place them in the client file. I would only note down what is being handled, the major actions taken, and the results we got. I will also note down a couple of suggestions for what I figure we will be doing next time.
Most clients will be totally unaware that there is any kind of a model for the pattern of the session. They might even be unaware that I am doing anything systematic and technical. They might just notice that we sit down and talk and somehow their problems vanish.
Personal preferences vary. There is no reason one has to do sessions the same way as everybody else. Find what works for you in achieving the objectives of transformational processing. Don't vary from the basics and the processing code, but there is a lot of range possible in the style you employ.