Quick Tips for Therapists

How to Manage a Client Who Blocks Treatment

By Sherrie Campbell, PhD

When you treat a client who says, “Yes, but…” to all suggestions for help and/or change given to them in session, it can be really frustrating. As clinicians, we want to help, and the client believes they want help but deflects all help given to them.

Here are three tips to manage clients who refuse the treatment they seek:

1) Address fears of change.

People are most comfortable in what is familiar, even when what is familiar is abusive, nonfunctional, or somehow totally destructive to a person’s life. The fact is that change is hard, and change is scary. When you have a client who “Yes, buts” all efforts at developing new perceptions or coping skills, you are dealing with a person who wants change, but maybe doesn’t want it that bad. Tell your client politely that you notice they say, “Yes, but…” to any suggestion you give them, and could they help you understand why they think they may be resisting the process they are choosing to undertake.

2) Disrupt the “Yes, but…” dialogue.

When you hear the “Yes, but…” come from the client, disrupt the conversation, and ask the client what solutions they believe would be effective since what you are suggesting is instantly being tossed out.

3) Have the client verbalize the reasons they sought help.

When none of the help you are offering is being processed or tried, there is something underneath that for the client. This is a good way to assess if this client is genuinely invested in the therapy process, or choosing to come to therapy to stay stuck in their sad story through the therapist’s validation of their pain.

Sherrie Campbell, PhD, is a licensed psychologist who specializes in helping healthy people cut ties with the toxic people in their lives. She is a nationally recognized expert on family estrangement, an inspirational speaker, former radio host of the Dr. Sherrie Show on BBM Global Network and Tune-In Radio, a social media influencer, and a regularly featured media expert.

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Quick Tips for Therapists