The client is always right… or are they?

In a recent Psychology Today article that’s bound to stir up controversy, Dr. Ryan Howse suggests that clients themselves regularly sabotage and derail their own therapy , leading to high drop-out rates. Some of the common client “mistakes” highlighted by Howse include:

Not asking Clients assume the therapist is the only one allowed to ask questions. They will rarely, if ever, ask about their therapist’s therapeutic approach, expectations of them, impressions of their work together, use of jargon they don’t understand, and so on.

Withholding/Downplaying/Misdirecting Clients want help but many have also been programmed to avoid unpacking the dark, painful baggage of their lives. This tendency to avoid and abscond often supersedes the need to be transparent. Consequently, clients dodge questions about what’s really going on, tell themselves they won’t talk about it unless the therapist asks exactly the right question, and communicate through hints, riddles, gestures, or tokens rather than expressing what they really feel and think.

Triangulating Rather than question the therapist when they don’t understand or agree with something discussed during therapy, the client runs to family members and friends and asks them what they think the therapist means. They then bring the results of their survey to the next session and spend the hour talking about what everyone else says.

Re-starting Clients often start each session like it’s their first because they feel they haven’t had a breakthrough in previous sessions and are hoping that their therapist will finally “get it.” What they don’t realize is that small incremental steps build to bigger ones and that progress in therapy is almost always a cumulative process.

All these “mistakes” outlined by Howse stem from a basic lack of connection and communication between client and therapist. The client is experiencing and feeling critical emotions and thoughts about therapy that they’re not communicating to their therapist. The only way they’ll communicate them is if they see their therapist as understanding, invested and directly involved in their healing — a connection that MyOutcomes is all about facilitating.


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