10 Mistakes a psychologist makes: / 10 Mistakes a psychologist should try to avoid at all costs!
Mistakes in a therapeutic relationship are very common
Posted by :
Shaheen Fathima Cholayil, GIIS Abu Dhabi
Mistakes in a therapeutic relationship are very common, although they're not discussed often. However, not tackling these faults and leaving them be might result in demeaning oneself and poor client satisfaction. Here is a list of 10 mistakes a psychologist makes.
1.Forming an emotional connection and allowing clients to see you as a friend:
It's a general misconception that helping your client can only be achieved if you become ‘their friend’, however this notion couldn't get more wrong. A psychologist's job is strictly maintained professionally. Sure, a number of clients appreciate friendly nature, but remember that they’ve come to you to ask for help not to make a buddy.
Remember what I mentioned in my previous blog on how a psychologist is expected to be a stoic rock? Well, although this is immensely true, clients count on signs of understanding and support during their time with the counselor. Only then does the therapist stand a chance in making the patient open up about their thoughts and feelings. Psychologists should “develop an understanding of how clients feel and must be able to respect those feelings even when they appear to be making the counselor’s job difficult” -- Nicholas A. VAcc, Larry C. Loesch
Mindlessly listening to the patient and allowing them to pour out their feelings is not just what a psychologist does. The client has reached out to you for help, which means you have to be involved in the conversation, intervene, and ask questions when necessary. Note the word: when necessary. Irrelevantly asking for clarifications might irritate the client, and may think that you are not being considerate.
There may be times you’ll have to give them advice as well as times you can ask the client if they have any suggestions. It depends on the client and how you’d approach them in a way that's' most beneficial.
4.Don't rush, therapy is an active process:
You might be dealing with patients on various ranges, clients suffering from eating disorders to patients with PTSD. Every individual has their own healing process and each requires a varied set of time to fully recover. By hurrying the process, you are rendering anxiety and a sense of failure to the patient. You must give them time and be patient with their pace.
5.Set realistic expectations:
This is a question that a client will most likely ask a psychologist: will I be okay? Is this curable? And when they ask that question, do be mindful of your response. Tell them your realistic perception, and not one that is filled with false optimism or desolating pessimism.
6.Be cautious of what you say:
Maintaining a professional stature as well as being friendly can sometimes be a little knotty. Don't get me wrong, clients do appreciate humor and kindness, however, know your boundaries. Be mindful of the jokes you crack to lighten the mood. It can sometimes come off as offensive to the clients.
7. Inappropriate behaviour:
The clients come to you with certain expectations in mind. Understanding, advicing, empathy and all sorts of things. The therapist must control their laughter and other emotions that might trigger the irritation of the clients.
8. Long utterances:
It’s natural to lose focus and space out while indulging yourself in long conversations. Long utterances limit you in a number of ways. You tend to forget points that you wanted to add in the middle and the session becomes less interactive. Listening to the client is important, however real therapy begins when there is intercommunication between the patient and psychologist.
Psychologists are not capable of reading minds. Even when clients are dissatisfied with the therapist’s sessions, they might not feel comfortable admitting it. Which gradually results in the counselor assuming that the client is not facing a problem. However, by regularly checking up on them and offering them the option of communicating with the therapist on how they wish to be counseled, the psychologist will be able to view better results.
10. Be mindful of what you bring into the therapeutic relationship:
It might seem challenging in the beginning, but keep your personal life away from the sessions with clients. Counselling sessions are strictly professional and your private feelings mustn't meddle. I’ll explain this with an example:
Julius Austin was working as a clinician at a university during the final year of his doctoral program, his dissertation chair called him to say that his committee had requested some final revisions. This meant he would no longer graduate that spring. He was devastated and embarrassed. His family had already bought tickets and were excited to see him and his twin brother, Jude, graduate together. As soon as Julius hung up the phone, he received another call informing him that his next client had arrived. In retrospect, austin says he should have explained the situation to the client and rescheduled the session so he could have taken time to process the news he had just received. Instead, the client came in and started talking about her decision to drop out of school and travel the world to gain real-life experience. Austin recalls opening his mouth and unleashing his frustration on the client saying,” you know, travelling doesn't work like that.” he proceeds to paint a grim picture of traveling. The client was quiet for a few seconds before responding, “ i'm sorry that you haven't had a good experience travelling, but i don't think that is the case for everyone. I think I'm going to leave now.
This incident taught him a lesson he’ll never forget. Never act on personal impulses and always draw a strict line between your personal life and therapy sessions.
So, I hoped reading this blogpost did in fact, help in some way. Although I’ve only discussed the gravity of the mistakes you make as a therapist, please be aware of the fact that mistakes are inevitable and they can’t be prevented, because at the end of the day, we are all human beings. A psychologist too is vulnerable to making mistakes and not being able to provide the clients the right guidance. So don't beat yourself up if you weren’t able to help a client. Psychology is all about learning, and you're learning with each new experience, which will make you a better psychologist.