Are some clients more difficult than others?

What are some difficulties that a counselor can encounter when dealing with a client?

Audrey ONeal
Audrey ONeal
Bi-lingual Psychotherapist and Certified Happiness Coach

Although many clients have the capacity to be engaged in the therapeutic process and express their thoughts and feelings in an articulate way, others may demonstrate resistance to treatment which can manifest in ways such as reflecting the desire to end therapy prematurely, cancelling appointments, or arriving late. A resistant client can also make the process of the therapist engaging the client, challenging.Once the therapist identifies the resistance, it is essential for the  therapist to address it with the the client and encourage the client to focus on the therapeutic goals.In my experience, I have observed that people have many reasons why they begin to show resistance. Some may believe the therapist is judgmental and they may not for one reason or another, feel  emotionally safe with the therapist. Others may not feel comfortable talking about their feelings, and it may appear that they never developed a rapport with the therapist.Sometimes a person may harbor feelings of distrust, or dislike for the therapist which eventually creates barriers to good treatment outcomes.

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Kaileen McMickle, MS, LPC
Kaileen McMickle, MS, LPC
Licensed Professional Counselor

I usually don't label a client as "difficult" because whatever they are presenting with makes sense for how they believe they need to live.  "Difficult" is also so subjective, so it could mean something different for each person.

It can be really hard for most counselors to feel stuck with a client.  Sometimes both the counselor and client have "blind spots" where we aren't aware of how functioning is surviving or we're unsure of how to move forward despite many attempts to do so.  

Some clients are also ambivalent to change even though they show up to counseling.  Most of my client load is comprised of teens that are mandated to be in therapy or day treatment and at times, it's a struggle to build a relationship as a result.  It takes take to work through that, and a patient, understanding counselor will know to allow the client to meet at their own pace.

I think it's common for counselors to sometimes perceive something as more difficult than it really is.  I've definitely been guilty of that.  All some clients need is just someone who will listen, understand, and extend empathy.  We can fall into expectations of our clients growth that may not even be needed or realistic.

No matter what a client comes into session with, they should never be blamed for their issues or made to feel like they are, themselves, difficult.  Therapy is hard, and when you see a counselor it's usually because you are having difficulties that feel unsolvable on your own.

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide.   If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Dr. Timothy Paul
Dr. Timothy Paul
'man'; Online - "Natural Health Consultant and Coach"

Dang right!  :)

Heh heh, and correct me if I'm wrong... and, if we are truly professionals, we should be able to handle even the most bumptious of folks, now shouldn't we? ;)

It's like a mechanic who knows his way around every inch of an engine... he'll know what to do... heh heh heh...

If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call...  (more)If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room. All written by 'i': 'man'; is [My] Property;
David Klein
David Klein
Humanistic, LGBT-Affirmative Psychotherapy for Individuals & Couples

Yes, just like some relationships outside of our work are more difficult than others. But, I would not say that the "client is more difficult," rather the dynamic between myself and the client, which constitutes a relationship, might feel more difficult. And that's okay (sometimes things that feel like the most challenging end up with profound shifts and outcomes.) It is often helpful to understand difficulties that exist, because they can illuminate for a therapist something with which a client might be struggling, and when it takes place in the therapy space, it can be experienced and then worked through.

It's hard to necessarily say what some difficulties are that a counselor might encounter, but I would say that not showing up, like in any relationship, is one of the hardest things for me. And not just physically not showing up (though that is certainly frustrating), but not being open to the work is a form of not showing up. While not every client is as "motivated to change," it's helpful to my therapist-client relationships that the client try. It might be hard for them, but the effort even to say "this is tough for me" can go a long way in these kinds of relationships.

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Sherry Katz, LCSW
Sherry Katz, LCSW
Couples and Family Therapist, LCSW

Each counselor will have their own list of "difficulties" in doing therapy work with a client.  Even if clinically trained similarly, since counselors are human then their response to your question will reflect their unique differences as humans.

On my list is when the emotional pain I feel for someone describing some type of injustice or unfair treatment by another, feels very deep.

Sometimes I feel like avoiding the pain I feel by asking questions which will steer the conversation away from the painful areas the client talks about.

What in fact is necessary to clear out their pain, is to step further into so as to realize their emotional pain isn't greater than who they are.

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.

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