Managing resistance in the counseling relationship.

Counseling Today asked Mitchell and Wubbolding to weigh in with their best recommendations for managing resistance in the counseling relationship.

  • “Stay out of the ’expert’ position,” Mitchell says. “The more resistant the client, the less knowledge you should profess to know. The more motivated the client, the more knowledge you can express.”
  • “Don’t collude with clients’ excuses,” Wubbolding says. “Don’t buy into and encourage feelings of victimhood and powerlessness. Discussion of these perceptions are useful in the beginning of the counseling session, but the counselor needs to move beyond them and lead the client beyond them. There is a French saying, Qui s’excuse s’accuse. Whoever excuses, accuses. Facilitating feelings of powerlessness only communicates to clients that they are powerless. This is a disservice to them.” Empathize, but don’t sympathize, he says. “Try to see the client’s point of view without communicating a sense of victimhood.”
  • “When you encounter resistance, slow the pace,” Mitchell says. “Trying to go too fast is a perfect way to increase resistance. Only take baby steps with resistant clients.”
  • “Don’t argue,” Wubbolding says. “This creates more resistance.”
  • “Focus on details. The devil is in the details, and so are all solutions,” Mitchell says. “Details create options. If you do not have enough options, you do not have enough details about what is occurring in the client’s situation. All therapeutic breakthroughs come from addressing and processing a detail in the client’s life that no one has ever discussed and processed before.”
  • Leave blame out of it, Wubbolding says. “Don’t blame the client, and don’t blame the people they think are creating their problems.”
  • “Always treat the resistance with respect,” Mitchell says. “The client has a reason for what they just said, (so) respect it.”
  • “Seek emotionally compelling reasons for change,” Mitchell says. “Do not waste time trying to create change through logic. If people changed because of logic, nobody would smoke or drink and everyone would have an exercise program and get eight hours of sleep. When people make major changes in their life, they don’t do it because of logic. They do it because they have an emotionally compelling reason.”
  • “Stay out of an excessive questioning mode of responding with resistant clients,” Mitchell says. “Questions are micro-confrontations with resistant clients that invite unproductive answers. Excessive questioning is the primary means by which therapists get sucked into the client’s ’stuckness.’ Learn to dialogue without questions.”

Author: Linda Turner

Coaching and Therapy Currently studying Psychotherapy , Cognitive psychology, Hypnotherapy. Qualified NLP, EMDR and CBT therapist. REIKI Master. I believe in truth, honesty and integrity! ≧◔◡◔≦

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