Change as a Process – Role of Client Resistance

12 Jun

One thing I like to say is that change is hard!  If change was easy, there would be no need for therapists, counselors, social workers, etc.  Furthermore, change is a process that is difficult and can be a lot of work and/or painful (Polcin, 2003).  It is therapeutic change, and a break down of client resistant behaviors that therapists strive to engage.  Moreover, resistance has multiple purposes and causes depending on the nature of therapeutic involvement (voluntary or non-voluntary) or extent of content to be disclosed (Sommers-Flanagan & Sommers-Flanagan, 2009).  Some examples of resistant client behaviors can include:   (1) too much talking, (2) lack of talking, (3) late/early arrivals, (4) lack of preparation or too much preparation, and (5) too much or lack of emotional control (Sommers-Flanagan & Sommers-Flanagan, 2009). (See below for References)

Lynn Shallcross wrote an excellent article on client resistance and the role of client resistance/managing that resistance as a counselor.  Click the text to go to the full article!

“You can’t change anyone else; you can only change yourself. Many counselors have used this common bit of wisdom to help clients overcome problems, but it’s crucial that counselors internalize that idea themselves, says Clifton Mitchell, a professor and coordinator of the community agency concentration in the counseling program at East Tennessee State University.”

References:

Polcin, D. L. (2003). Rethinking Confrontation in Alcohol and Drug Treatment: Consideration of the Clinical Context. Substance Use & Misuse, 38(2), 165.

Somers-Flanagan, J and Somers-Flanagan, R. (2009). Clinical Interviewing. 4th. Ed. Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, NJ.

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3 Responses to “Change as a Process – Role of Client Resistance”

  1. Jennifer Stuart June 12, 2012 at 6:07 PM #

    I have recently been reviewing my semi-dissertation project I did as an undergrad in psychology. My main thesis was that empathy was critical for psychological change to happen. I looked at the works of Heinz Kohut, Harry Stack Sullivan, and Carl Rogers. Of course, Freud was also in there. The main point was that as the field of psychology strained to be more of a”science”, it began to try and be something that it wasn’t. By focusing on symptoms and “fixing” people, it was inherently ignoring the subjective states of awareness that were its only rock of stability.
    Your post helped me to remember that yes, change is hard; and the more that therapists, friends, and family can actually relate to and see a person for their whole experience and not just their “symptoms” or “what is wrong” with them, the easier and more possible it becomes to transition away from old states of being and into newer states, with the real support of family, friends, and therapists. When people feel that someone is paying attention to their symptoms instead of their whole being, of course they would defend in all sorts of ways; because that is not a real relationship. As soon as someone really is just present with them, with us, it becomes possible to allow change to happen without a feeling of terror. Thanks for this reminder :)

    • coffeecounsel June 19, 2012 at 1:17 PM #

      Jennifer, thanks so much for your thoughtful response:) as you point out: “When people feel that someone is paying attention to their symptoms instead of their whole being, of course they would defend in all sorts of ways; because that is not a real relationship.” This is very very true! Anyone, if placed in that situation would respond defensively. Not only is the relationship not real, but it limits the sum of a person’s being to those symptoms. I’m glad you enjoyed my post. It means a lot:) You really summed up my feelings precisely when you said “As soon as someone really is just present with them, with us, it becomes possible to allow change to happen without a feeling of terror.” Thanks again for stopping by:)

  2. anxietyadventures June 21, 2012 at 11:18 AM #

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