People are different. It doesn’t work to use the same counseling technique on every one of your clients.
How Good Is Your Ability To Adapt?
You do a huge disservice to your clients when you expect them to adapt to your counseling style, rather than you adapting to their needs. This wrong expectation makes it harder for your client to be authentic and “be themselves”.
What it does create is this need or desire to “feel like they’re doing therapy right.” Instead of focusing on being honest and developing trust, they waste valuable energy trying to gain acceptance and validation from you.
Differing Counseling Styles
There are several prominent counseling styles that I dip into. Below is a description of each one and the type of client that benefits most from each style.
The Hansel & Gretel
Some clients like to be surprised and discover truths for themselves. You can be evasive, mysterious, indirect and they will still find the answers on their own just by you asking the right questions.
These clients are naturally curious, so it’s a good idea to leave bread crumbs for them to follow. These clients like the reward of knowing that they figured it out “on their own.”
Some clients have never learned to trust themselves. What they need most of all is to know that their experiences are not unique to themselves. You will need to work really hard to give them the reassurance that what they think and feel is accurate.
You’ll need to be more direct with these clients. Since they don’t naturally trust themselves, asking leading questions only leads to more confusion. You need to spoon feed these clients until they understand how to be aware of what they’re feeling.
Some clients benefit from knowing your story more than others. They find reassurance that you were once where they are and that they can “look like you” when they’re done with this process. They learn better by story, rather than facts or books.
When you can give them your hope, it gives them permission to risk the things they’ve been holding onto and attempt to start growing themselves.
The Non-Emotional Emotions Teacher
Some clients don’t have the emotional vocabulary to clearly define their feelings. They have had to live so long in their head that any sort of feelings become overwhelming or “wrong” to experience.
With these clients it’s best to not focus on their feelings at first. (They’ll learn this later on, but it’s not your opening act.) Instead, they feel safest and grow best by first learning intellectual information. Focusing on using the cognitive gate to their experiences works better.
The Tough-Love, No Nonsense Sergent
Some clients need the harsh directness of calling them out on their bad behavior. They will not respect you if you can’t be stronger than they are. Sometimes, they will even play with you, testing your boundaries or pushing your buttons to see what responses they’ll get.
Typically, these clients have run over several other therapists before finding you. Think Robin William’s character, Sean, in Good Will Hunting. It wasn’t until he called BS on Will Hunting that Will decided he could be trusted.
The Two-Socks Approach
Some clients need lots of time to develop trust and can’t be rushed. It’s like the lone wolf, Two-Socks, in Dance’s With Wolves. Kevin Costner’s character slowly wins over the trust of this wild animal using food and time until they become bonded friends.
Patience and care is always required. One false move can undo several months worth of trust. You can never rush things or push too hard at first.
The Morphine Drip
Some clients need to jump right into the felt needs. Their pain is so acute that understanding the causes is not as valuable as stopping the pain.
When you can help them breathe easier, they will know that you have something of value. They’ll trust you when you tell them that it’s time to do the deep surgery and remove the tumor causing the problems in the first place.
What Styles Do You Use?
There are many more styles I know you have found helpful in your practice.
If you wouldn’t mind, please take just a second and, in the comments below, describe what you do and what type of client benefits most from this technique. (P.S. If you first time posting, your comment will need to be moderated to make sure you’re not some computer sending spam to everyone. Give it a day or two to show up online, but it will be there.)
Please share this post on Facebook or Twitter (links below) with other therapist that might enjoy it. Thanks so much.
I'd love to hear from you, so leave a comment or connect on any of the various social media platforms.
Latest posts by Smart Therapist (see all)
- The Therapeutic Benefits Of Poorly Time Bathroom Breaks - February 23, 2016
- A Confused Mind Makes No Decisions - October 19, 2015
- Someone Else’s Good Idea - October 7, 2012