I’ve often heard that how someone treats you is more a reflection of the other person than it is on you. I strongly believe in the value of feedback and how it can help us see blind spots, but it is also essential to consider the source. The source may not be coming from a healthy place and may provide you with signs that they need help.
A measuring stick I use is whether the feedback is constructive. Is it designed to help you, or is it complaining or attacking? Does it offer some form of a solution or suggestion? If feedback is constructive, I look to see if I have missed something. I may even ask a trusted person for a second opinion if I don’t see the issue. Then, there is usually something I can learn and change.
A somewhat recent scenario involved a client who had many different expectations for counseling and what should happen in the first session than I was able to meet. I found this out at the very end of the session. Is there anything I would have done differently? Probably not much. I have, however, started talking even more about not just what usually happens in the first session but generally what to expect in therapy. While this information has always been on my website and in my intake paperwork, I realize clients do not always read this information. Therefore, I have updated my paperwork to try to provide transparency more explicitly.
In some ways, the No Surprises Act has helped me with this communication. While I don’t believe the act was created with counselors in mind or that all of what it asks of us is realistic, I use the opportunity while explaining the act to give a very high-level overview of the wide range of time and commitment therapy may entail. In addition, it has allowed me to discuss the balancing act between assessment and treatment.
It is also important for me to look at a client’s background, what they think about therapy in general, and if they have issues such as anger. An angry client may be frustrated if they don’t meet all of their goals in the first session, and I have to realize what could come across as rudeness could be the client expressing how they are upset with themselves. As therapists, I also believe there is a line we do not have to let get crossed. If a client is extremely rude or belligerent, I think it is appropriate for us to tell them so and that the behavior will not be tolerated. We serve our clients, but that does not require us to be doormats.
Aaron Engel is a professional counselor in Columbus, OH. He works with couples to help with all kinds of relationship issues. As a private practice owner, Aaron strives to provide excellent care with every aspect of the counseling experience. Learn more about him and the services he offers at Cardinal Point Counseling.