This is how I start many of my sessions. And it can seem a bit misleading at times, because ultimately, I can only help clients help themselves. I had a session recently where a young couple was in my office and the wife asked me, “Why are we here? You can’t fix this.”
That was such an awesome and insightful question which gave me hope that this couple can do the work they need to do in order to resolve their issues. Now, I also realize that insight alone is not the only (perhaps not even the primary) indicator of change/successful outcomes, but it is a start. It is also an opening to really explain what counseling/therapy can and cannot do.
Counseling and counselors can: be objective, offer suggestions and provide support. Counseling and counselors cannot: fix other people’s problems, take responsibility for others success or failure and wave a magic wand that makes the problems disappear.
When my client asked that question and made that comment, this allowed me to explain what I can and can’t do and what their part was. This also allowed me to emphasize that their success or failure was their responsibility and not mine. I also used this opportunity to build rapport by outlining my hopes for their relationship and personal success and to assure them that I was in it for the long haul with them.
After that, the session really improved and both began to take a slightly different look at what was going on and when I gave them something to work on in between sessions, they both agreed that they would. I am hopeful that this is the start of a positive outcome and change in their focus.
If you have some examples of these types of situations, please share them! What has worked and not worked? We learn from both.