Working with Hard Clients

Posted by Elliott Connie - March 6, 2020 - Solution Focused Therapy - No Comments

One of the common questions I get is how do I work with hard clients. By hard, people often mean the kinds of clients that either don’t want to participate in sessions or can’t for one reason or another. This video will answer those kinds of questions once and for all.


All those years ago when I started the SFBT Moments video series, this weekly blog series, I did so out of my genuine desire for professionals to have access to quality training, regardless of whether or not they could afford the expensive courses or travel to the exotic cities, to learn that this approach from all the, you know, leading minds in the field. I wanted people to be able to sit in their room at home and get access to quality training material. So it was important for me that this blog series, this video

series not be just fluff and, you know, just like the typical “I’m excited to share” kind of stuff. I want people to get real strategies, real impact, real things that they could do in their practice that would impact the way that they do Solution Focused Brief Therapy. One of things that I do frequently in this series, I share difficult situations that I found myself in clinically and how I handled it because I wanted to see how you can use language to produce questions that will lead to a client outcome.

And in last week’s video, somebody replied with, “Whenever you share about your videos, it always seems like, it’s like, these really perfect scenarios” and they wanted to hear “But how do you handle things when they’re imperfect.” “How do you handle things when the clients are difficult?” And I wanted to talk a little bit about this today because that is not an unusual question for me or my colleagues to receive. I know, you know,

Chris gets that question a lot. Adam gets that question a lot, Evan get that question a lot.

I know a lot of my colleagues and friends get that question. So I wanted to address why this is so important and there are two factors that I want to give to you

in response to this question and number one, I don’t mind the question. The person who asked that I didn’t have any problem people asking it.

But I want to make sure that there are two factors that you guys understand here. The hardest thing for us to show you,

are clients where that it doesn’t go well, not like that it doesn’t go well from an outcomes perspective, but challenging clients. Because we work so hard to master our language and to get really good at crafting questions that produce useful responses, that it’s actually we view that is our job.

Like, if the client is being shown in a session as a challenging client, then that means I’m not doing a good job of highlighting the best of that client.

Thus, what I’m saying is, I’m not asking questions that elicit the best of the client. So we’ve worked very hard to make it more likely that we’re eliciting the best of the client and to be very honest

with you as I sit here right now, I can’t remember the last time I had one of those challenging interactions with a client because I’ve fully taken on,

it’s my responsibility to ask questions that highlight the very best of my client. And if I’m not doing that,

it’s not the client being difficult. It’s me trying to force my question upon to my client, as opposed to trying to adjust my questions to the client that I’m talking to in that day.

So I hope that makes sense. So that’s point number one. Point number two is, you know, you have to fully accept when you’re doing this approach that there is always,

always, always hope and people will ask questions like, “But I want to see how you use this approach with someone who can’t think about their future.”

Or, “I want to know how you do this approach with someone who loves being in the problem.” Or, “I want to know how you use this approach with people who enjoys going from one trauma to another.”

And it’s like, Wait a minute. If you go into a conversation viewing someone as liking being in a problem or enjoying experiencing trauma.

If you go into a situation like that thinking that about a person, then you have no chance to view them through any other lens other than difficult.

Sometimes in fact, I would say all times, it is my responsibility to view my client through the lens of appropriateness.

It is my responsibility to view my client through the lens of capability, possibility and likelihood of change. So I would never view

my client as someone who enjoys being dramatic. I would view my client as someone who just has had a lot of things happen in their life.

And when you switch the way you view your client, you significantly reduce the likelihood that they will experience you is challenging and you reduce the likelihood that they will behave challenging in the session.

Because think about this, guys. I mean, you go talk to someone, like, everybody knows this. Everyone, there are certain people that,

like in your job, at your office, at your school, wherever it is you work. You just know that that person doesn’t like you.

All right, you can just feel it. You just know that that student doesn’t respond well to you.

You just know that that boss you have doesn’t like you. You are not likely to interact positively with that person.

So if you go into the conversation thinking, “Oh, this is one of those clients who can’t think about the future”,

then you are putting the client in that position and they pick it up. They’re aware of it.

And then they don’t respond well to it. It is my job to make sure I don’t view my client through such a problem saturated lens.

It is my job that I view my client in the best light possible, and that decreases the likelihood that my client shows up for that session in a challenging way. Increases the likelihood that

they’re willing to work with me and it gives me full responsibility. I am taking on the challenge of viewing my client through another lens,

because that’s my job. So, part of this approach is like, you know, technical right,

like you have to learn how to use the tools. I think the other thing about the approach is intangible.

You have to learn the magic behind the use of the tools and one without the other doesn’t really work guys. You really have to do both.

So I hope this video helps you along your Solution Focused journey. I think if you can understand what I’m trying to say,

it’s going to really make a difference in your practice. So, without further ado, thanks for watching this video.

Please ‘like’, ‘share’, ‘subscribe’ to my YouTube channel. Click the bell so you get a notification every time I posted a new video and head on over to www.elliottconnie.com.

I’ve got loads of cool stuff there. We’ve been working on that website for a little while now, so it should be cooler, revamped.

All kinds of cool stuff there. So go check it out. Leave a comment. I love to chat to you guys

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