Yes, you read the heading correctly. Blaming the client for not changing is all too common a practice among therapists. Maybe they won’t be up front and say it directly to the client. No matter. It’s an all too frequent response among counselors. Dare I say it’s even a default belief. How arrogant!
Think about it, a client goes through all the work of making an appointment and following through week after week. After all this, the counselor assumes their client doesn’t want to change if they don’t respond as fast as the counselor would like. Or maybe the client just responds to the process in a manner that doesn’t fit in with the counselors belief system about how a client should grow or evolve. All say it again, how arrogant.
I’ve seen this directly. I used to work at a large, private mental health center. At a staff Holiday party, the conversation turned to all the resistant clients who just weren’t ready to change. What?! How about all the resistant therapists who didn’t want to learn new methodologies, new approaches? It was easier to simply blame the patient.
If the counselor really believes the client is resisting change, truly not ready to grow, why don’t they tell the client to return when they are ready? But that’s not the way the system works. The mental health system, first and foremost, is designed to serve itself. Secondarily, the client may or may not be truly served. Sad. And this from me, a former insider in the system. I think you can guess why I’m now in private practice.
So, are therapists locked within the mindset of the system bad? No, that’s too binary, too black and white. With rare exception, individuals with good hearts gravitate to the mental health system. The operative word here is system. Systems are exceedingly subtle yet powerful in their unconscious influence of its members. The participants almost become hypnotized into accepting the unconscious beliefs of the system. Often, usually, these beliefs serve the system, not those the system professes to serve. The next time you hear a mission statement, perhaps you should plug your ears!
Blaming the client is a cop out, plain and simple. It’s the easy way out. The counselor gets to wash their hands of any sense of responsibility in the process. Fair? No. Accurate? No. Misguided? Yes. A big yes!
An alternative viewpoint: Instead of blaming the client, a more honest, and true, response would go something like the following. “I’m sorry, we’ve tried a few things, but I don’t know how to help you with your issue. This is about me, my present skill set and level of training. However, I know there are other therapists who could very well be of assistance.” Referrals would be appropriate at this point. What’s critical here is that at no point was the client blamed for failing to successfully address their issues.
If you feel blamed by the counselor, get out of there fast. Know that this blaming is a comment on the counselor, not you. Shake it off. You can find a therapist who can help you grow and evolve. They are out there.
In the interim, pat yourself on the back for having the courage to look for a helping hand. You’re worth it.