You can always be misunderstood

There are two aims in any conversation: unambiguous expression of your own position and complete comprehension of the other person’s views. We should always remember that neither of these is a realistic goal.

You will upset your clients

Apparently innocuous comments can upset your clients. You can’t avoid triggering issues unknown to you, but you can be ready to respond if they are brought to light.

Ensure that your client can say stop

Ensure that your client can tell you to stop or to go away. All but the most severely disabled clients should be able communicate these instructions and should be encouraged to do so.

Aim for reliability before availability

Reliability is more important than availability in the long run. Clients who know when you are not available can make informed choices regarding alternative sources of support.

Work with, not around, chaotic clients

Therapists can either work on, or work around, the chaos in client’s lives. Identifying clients, rather than their circumstances, as chaotic risks disempowering the client.

Give clients your full name and title

Introduce yourself with your full name and professional title. Clients can then decide how to address you as rapport builds, especially if you provide a reminder of your name (ie: a readable ID badge).

Demanding clients make legitimate requests

“Demanding” clients are often making legitimate requests. Therapists applying such a label should consider whether it is the client’s requests or the service’s lack of resources which is unrealistic.

Tell clients confidentiality has limits

Therapists often assure clients that the information they provide is confidential. Confidential is defined as “intended to be kept secret”. Whether the information will be kept as secret as the client (or therapist) imagines depends upon the therapist and the service.

Improve rapport by allowing silences

Clients’ perceptions of rapport may be enhanced by silences. Therapists who are uncomfortable with silence should remind themselves that their client’s interpretation of the silence may be much more positive.

Beware of unofficial diagnoses & double meanings

Some terms used by therapists to describe clients have meanings which won’t be found in textbooks. Use of these terms is rarely of benefit to the client, although the term may say as much about the therapist as the client.