Think before you act for your client

Stop and think before you take action on behalf of your client. You may be depriving them of the opportunity to help themselves (with appropriate support).

Therapists are people who want to help. People of equivalent qualifications in other fields are usually paid more and have better conditions: we don’t do it for the money, but because we want to make a difference.

Trainees want to help. Faced with overwhelming distress or disability, you want to make a difference but have only a limited repertoire of knowledge to draw upon. You may (mistakenly) feel that you must compensate for your shortcomings and so attempt to offer more practical help where possible.

Experienced therapists want to help. Face with overwhelming demand for your services, you want to make a difference but have only a limited amount of time and energy to offer. You can fall into the trap of taking shortcuts, using your experience rather than offering it to your client.

Give someone a fish and you feed them for a day, teach someone to fish and you feed them for life.

Clients seek help, but does a given client want you to do the job for them or to assist them in helping themselves? If your client is concerned about the length of a waiting list, for example, do you call the relevant department or do you support your client in doing so?

A trainee knows they can make a phone call, but not necessarily alleviate the client’s other problems. They may make the call for their client in order to feel that they have helped in some way.

An experienced therapist knows the obstacles which the client may face in dealing with health service bureaucracy. They may make the call for their client rather than waste precious time on what may seem to be a deviation from the main issue.

Clients often feel helpless in the face of their difficulties. Judging when to teach fishing and when to give a fish is not easy for you or your client: you will (both) make mistakes. However, solving your client’s immediate problem before they have had a chance to decide whether they could manage (with or without your help) disempowers your client and may convey the message that you consider them to be incapable.

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