Quick Tips for Therapists

Part 1: What to Do When a Client Is Participating in Self-Judgment?

By Diana M. Garcia, MS, LMHC

Clients often come into session with self-judgments: evaluations they have about themselves, whether judging their character, decisions, past, appearance, etc. A client can have a negative self-evaluation, “I’m such a failure for…” or a positive one, “I’m the best parent in the world.”

As therapists, we need to be aware of when these self-judgments are getting in the way of the client engaging in values-driven behaviors and reinforcing some avoidance behavior. Once we understand that better, we can be more precise in what to target to help the client gain flexibility with these judgments.

Your job is not to get bogged down by ALL your client’s self-judgments; that would be unworkable. You want to identify the specific self-judgments that, when they show up, tend to rigidly narrow the client’s engagement in their life in some meaningful way.

For instance, if the self-evaluation of “I’m such a loser; I was ghosted last week,” causes the client to want to give up on dating altogether and they’ve identified a goal of being in a loving relationship, then this would be a self-evaluation that we would like to target. Whereas, if the same evaluation still causes distress but doesn’t impede the client from staying on the path, then it might be something to make room for rather than intervene.

One question to ask yourself: Is this client’s specific self-judgment influencing their behavior in an unworkable way? Unworkable means it’s moving them away from their desired values somehow. Try this question out next time you’re unsure whether focusing on a specific self-judgment is helpful.

Catching up on the series? Read part two here.

Diana M. Garcia, MS, LMHC, is a licensed therapist in Florida and the founder and owner of the private practice Nurturing Minds Counseling. In her practice, she helps stressed-out millennials feel calm, confident, and kickass in their lives. Additionally, she also works with couples who are struggling to communicate and seeking to rekindle their connection. She’s been in the field since 2013, and has worked in various roles, including primary therapist at various treatment centers and, most recently, as director of counseling services at a local university. She is fortunate to be a Certified Daring Way Facilitator, and is a member of the Association for Contextual Behavioral Science.

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Quick Tips for Therapists