Guidelines for effectively challenging a client

Guidelines for effectively challenging a client

Challenging a Client (Obj. 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 3.4, and 3.5)

Write a 750-1,000-word essay outlining at least four guidelines for effectively challenging a client. For each guideline, provide a case example illustrating the principle. Address the following in your paper:

1.      How can counselors challenge a client without getting into a power struggle with a client, or provoking client defensiveness?

2.      How can counselors help a client to identify unused resources and strengths?

3.      How can counselors help a client to identify blind spots while continuing to provide empathy and support for the client?

4.      How would counselors work with a client within an interdisciplinary treatment team?

5.      How can a counselor act as a consultant when a practicing counselor asks for help to strengthen their challenging skills with clients?

6.      For this part of the assignment, you may write in the first person. Reflect on your level of assertiveness. Do you feel you are assertive enough to challenge clients comfortably or do you feel you are too passive or aggressive? What might keep you from challenging a client?

Guidelines for effectively challenging a client

Provide at least three scholarly references in your paper.

Prepare this assignment according to the guidelines found in the APA Style Guide, located in the Student Success Center. An abstract is not required.

Sample Answer 

Guidelines to Challenging a Client

Many therapists believe in the idea that only an individual can bring change in their lives and this is also a fundamental principle in some of the psychological theories that are used in psychotherapy. The concept highlights the fact that as a therapist it may not be possible to change your clients and therefore, the main role is to change the interaction with them, in the hope that they can apply some of the skills and change certain aspects of their life. However, despite this knowledge, there are instances when psychotherapists encounter resistance form their clients (Yotsidi et al., 2019). This resistance is described as stemming from the client and there are valid reasons why they would be resistant.

One thing that explains resistance is when there is an inability by the therapist to understand the world of the client and consequently their response to therapy. Secondly, resistance may be visualized as happening when there are inadequate techniques to manage the interaction n between the client and the therapist. Generally, there may be several situations where the resistant clients may need gentle challenging and the therapist may choose from a wide range of skills. The principle behind challenging the client is that it should be done empathetically and geared towards meeting the needs of the client. The therapist should also ensure that they remain calm and reframe the resistance so that there is no chance of having two people resisting each other.

Guidelines for effectively challenging a client

One guideline for challenging a client is the use of skills such as immediacy, a psychological approach that is associated with interpersonal process therapy (Hetrick et al., 2016). The approach enables the therapist to exploit the immediate situation and raise awareness to the client so that they can establish what is going on in the relationship. The main goal is to strengthen the therapeutic relationship and in the process challenging the client without making the client feel as though they need to be defensive. The therapist strives to increase awareness in the client and the process identifies the strengths and resources that have been unused. The therapist also seeks out the maladaptive relationship patterns that may be existent between the client and therapist and in the process helps the client to focus on the interpersonal process in the session as compared to the content for the session (Hill, Knox & Pinto-Coelho, 2018). This may be achieved by pointing out something as it happened, for instance, noticing a change in facial expression and pointing it out to allow for self-exposure. A case example will be to tell the client “I noticed that when I shared my interpretation of this issue, there was a change in your facial expression, what are your thoughts on it?

A second guideline is to express empathy and emotional validation towards the client. This may be achieved by coming up with statements that maybe not only empathetic but also emotionally validating.  Expressing empathy requires that the therapist does not argue with the client or make excuses for the actions or feelings that they have (Yotsidi et al., 2019). This will ensure that they do not get into a power struggle. The therapist will be careful enough to identify the blind spots and use them to continue providing support and empathy. The therapist can consult with other people in an interdisciplinary team on how to make use of the available skills to show empathy and validation. An example of empathy and validation is when a client says that they are angry with them. The therapist may validate this by apologizing for anything that they may have done to upset the client.

Another guideline for dealing with clients showing resistance is to seek support from others in the field.  In some cases, it may be embarrassing and shameful to experience challenges with a client despite training and experience. One way that will be ideal to help the therapist out of this situation is to share the issue with other mental health professionals. However, when this is done, care should be taken to maintain confidentiality. These discussions may be instrumental as there may be suggestions on how to handle the case. Another way to go about it is to seek a second opinion from a consultant either physically and in some cases through a phone call. The consultation enables the therapist to speak out on the concerns as well as insecurities that they have. As a consultant, the goal will be to reassure the therapist and provide alternative solutions to the issue at hand.


A guideline to dealing with challenging clients is to ensure that one cultivates patience. It is necessary for the therapist to not only cultivate patience in challenging clients but also with themselves. To achieve this, therapists may need to explore reappraisal, whereby they establish new ways to examine the existing challenges. For instance, a therapist may be frustrated by a client and may feel exhausted and drained. However, they may also choose to see the situation as being important since they are helping another person bear their burdens. Such thoughts may be refreshing and may provide the therapist with the strength to push through with the support despite the challenges. Another approach is mediation and this will allow the therapist to lovingly direct good thoughts and well wishes to themselves. However, when things become too tough, it is okay for a therapist to terminate the relationship and possibly refer the client especially if the therapist feels that the stress may prevent them from meeting the needs of the clients.

In conclusion, psychotherapy requires patience as it involves helping others bear their burdens and pains. However, there may be instances when one deals with challenging patients and therefore there are guidelines to help the therapists cope. A therapist may adopt skills such as immediacy to manage the client in addition to other strategies such as empathy and emotional validation. Also, the therapist should be calm about the situation, cultivate patience and whenever possible consult with the other mental heaths staff. However, whenever it is not possible to help, a therapist should consider referring the patient.


Hetrick, S. E., Cox, G. R., Witt, K. G., Bir, J. J., & Merry, S. N. (2016). Cognitive behavioral Therapy (CBT), third‐wave CBT and interpersonal therapy (IPT) based interventions for preventing depression in children and adolescents. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (8).

Hill, C. E., Knox, S., & Pinto-Coelho, K. G. (2018). Therapist self-disclosure and immediacy: A Qualitative meta-analysis. Psychotherapy, 55(4), 445.

Yotsidi, V., Stalikas, A., Pezirkianidis, C., & Pouloudi, M. (2019). The Relationships Between Client Resistance and Attachment to Therapist in Psychotherapy. Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy, 49(2), 99-109.

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