‘I don’t see the point of coming here.’
‘I’ve got nothing to talk about.’
‘Seems a waste of time and money to me.’
Words from an ambivalent client? No, words from trainee counsellors questioning the value of personal counselling. … I find it hard to believe that a human being when presented with the opportunity of discussing ‘the world, the universe and everything’ cannot find something useful to gain from the experience. Such an attitude suggests arrogance, a lack of insight, little creativity and a rather parochial approach to life.
I have experienced a range of therapies over the last thirty years and each experience has enriched my therapeutic practice as well as my life. For example, I am surprised at the number of counsellors who seem thrown by the idea that a client may become attached to them.
I have had supervisees ask me whether they should refer the client on simply because the client has declared or hinted at a fondness for the counsellor. Albert Ellis, the founder of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy, uses examples of such client behaviour as reason for not offering warmth in the therapeutic relationship.
Surely client dependency and attachment are simply part of the therapeutic process? Such feelings are not to be exploited or used as a way of feeding the counsellor’s fragile ego but they cannot be ignored if they exist. When such a circumstance as occurred with one of my clients I believe I have been able to handle the situation both professionally and with care.
Professionally, because I have understood the appropriate ethical and boundary issues. With care, because I offered to the best of my ability a non-judgemental environment where the client could feel accepted yet clear about the boundaries of our relationship. I could only imagine referring such a client on in the most extreme circumstances where, in consultation with my counselling supervisor, it seemed that unhealthy, obsessional, stalking-type behaviour was likely to develop and continuation in therapy was contra-indicated.