What do you do if a client is angry or disappointed with your behavior?

By Raychelle Cassada Lohmann, MS, LPC

Oftentimes, as counselors, we encounter clients that become frustrated or angry with us when things aren’t going the way they want them to go. When this happens, counselors are in a position to teach clients how to effectively work through conflict, all while building a trusting relationship.  

Here are some tips for calming angry clients. First, gain rapport with your client while he or she is angry. This can be accomplished by carefully listening to what your client’s saying. Do not interrupt. Use verbal and non-verbal affirmations to show understanding (e.g., maintain eye contact, nod frequently, make comments that illustrate empathy), watch your stance (e.g., don’t stand with your arms crossed, display an open body posture – hands loose by your sides with palms slightly open facing the client), try to understand his or her perspective, remain calm, and speak in a soothing voice. Most importantly, don’t take the client’s anger as a personal attack.  

By using appropriate non-confrontational skills, you can avoid a potentially anger-provoking or volatile situation with your client. Effectively working through conflict can strengthen a relationship. Open communication and expression between a counselor and client will lead to a strong therapeutic relationship that gets positive results.  

Raychelle Cassada Lohmann, MS, LPC, is a national board certified counselor and a licensed professional counselor. Lohmann has worked as a school counselor at the middle school and high school levels, and has helped hundreds of teens deal with feelings of frustration and anger. She is the author of The Anger Workbook for Teens, The Bullying Workbook for Teens, and Staying Cool…When You're Steaming Mad. She also writes Psychology Today's Blog "Teen Angst" and is an expert contributor on Rehabs.com and Sharecare.com.

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