Junior (College 3rd year) ・Psychology ・APA ・10 Sources

Counsellors frequently face problems in the counselling environment, such as working with resistant clients. Resistant clients are people that are either resistant to change or dissatisfied with outside assistance. Clients may be required to attend therapy sessions in some situations owing to statutory obligations such as parole conditions or court orders. Such clients are prone to dislike being forced to go, which leads to resistance (Shallcross, 2017). Resistance can manifest itself in a variety of ways, including inability to complete assigned schoolwork, failure to follow treatment recommendations, and chronic tardiness to sessions, among others.Counselors need to be aware of these challenges and develop appropriate ways in which to deal with them.
The first step, for dealing with resistant clients is defining them (McLeod, 2013). As a counsellor, it is important not to judge client in order to establish a therapeutic interaction. This make it difficult to label a client as resistance. People may become challenging clients for a number of reasons, and therefore to calling them resistant on the onset can adversely impact on therapeutic relationship, build tension, stress and undermine the counselling interaction. For instance, clients may difficulties may be because of negative life experiences and this the reluctance may be a form of defense mechanism. Counselors therefore need to take their time before arriving to a conclusion that a given client is resistant. Typically, the different types of challenging clients that counselor encounter include; aggressive and angry, complainers, unresponsive and silent, superficially agreeable, pessimists and illusionary (Stanley, 2013).
Once the counselor has defined a resistive client, the next step is developing an approach to deal with them. According to Shallcross (2017), counselors should adopt the same strategy they use to help client; ""You can't change anyone else; you can only change yourself."" In the same way, counsellors must realize it is not easy to change their clients but rather the best approach would be to change how they interact with them. According to Johnson, (2012), the concept of the therapists directing their focus only on the way they interact with the clients and allowing change occurs on its own is crucial in the successful management of resistance. For instance, in the event the client is continually late or fails to complete the homework, this may be an indicator the current approach is not working and the best thing for the counselor is to change the way he or she interact with the particular client.
Another recommended approach for dealing with resistance during counselling is doing the unexpected. Clients vary significantly on the level of embarrassment and willingness to disclose their problems. Often, some client fear discussing challenges and may have a feeling of inadequacy or shameful to have problems (Wubbolding, 2017). Such clients who are reluctant to talk may anticipate responses, which include criticism. Some of the resistant clients are prepared for confrontation and have packaged numerous responses with regard to their situations. Notwithstanding the level of openness, resistant clients have tendency to anticipate the common response and were well equipped with answers aimed at defending the status quo (Wubbolding, 2017). Such responses normally advance arguments for the futility of the situation or the clients contending the problem does not lie with them but another person. As counsellors therefore, it is important to know the socially typical responses and their ineffective in therapeutic interaction. Responding in typical manner increase resistance and thus the need for unexpected response. Some of the responses for instance which the clients may not anticipate include emphatic statement, avoiding questions that may have preordained responses, lack of criticism, and refraining from nonjudgmental posture. Such approaches are likely to get the resistant clients off guard and reduce resistance.
Additionally, as opposed to the prevailing urge of speeding sessions when resistance is encountered, the counselor should slow their pace, and focus on details. The counselor need to ensure that every statement from the client is appropriately addressed and processed in details. As the saying goes, ""The devil is in the details,"" and hence the need to go deep into the details of the issue. When the counselor goes into the details, an opportunity for showing genuine concern and respect for the client's issue come and increase the likelihood of getting to the root of it (Mitchell, 2014). A method that counselors can use to slow the pace of the sessions is increasing the use of silence and the time between words. The effect of this is creating pressure on the client to fill the space while at the same time providing the therapist with time to think and feel. Often, resistant clients avoid such tasks. Yet the pressure of filling the space and getting to time to think and feel leafs to clients doing the work (Dryden & Mytton, 2016). Slowing pace further aids in giving moments for the client's defense to dissipate. Where the counselor adopts a faster approach, there is likelihood of doing the work themselves which leads to changes taking a longer time.
Another approach of dealing with resistance is treating it with respect. When the client shows resistance, for instance failure to complete homework and attend the sessions late, their perceptions and accompanying resistance need to be handled with care and respect. Counselors need to take time to honor such a resistance. As established by Levine and Sandeen, (2013), resistance in the counselling interaction is brought about by the client belief that the behavior of the counselor may result to a repletion of injury. The counselor show of disrespect it the perceptions of the client and resistance is rejection of their how they view the reality and by extension the clients themselves. As aforementioned, any attempt to try to change clients lead to resistance but understanding them leads to change (Muntigl, 2013). The counselor should take every client, as a new culture that need to be understood an approach, which is likely to achieve change.
According to Duffy, (2016), disorientation due to the client's failure to complete homework is something that most therapists are familiar with. Duffy advises that it is not logical to note ""noncompliance with treatment"" but rather the counsellor should take advantage of the window presented. For the counsellor to be able to capitalize on the incomplete assignment, it is necessary to first assess why it was not completed. For instance, a good statement to start with according to Duffy (2016) would be ""When we last met, we agreed it would be helpful to __. Can you help me understand what got in the way?"" Numerous possibilities may be on the offing. For instance, the homework may encompass something the client is not interested in undertaking. It could also be due to the fact the clients lack necessary skills to undertake the assignment. Alternatively, the assignment may involve other people and disagreement or conflict arose in the course of doing it. Moreover, there could be another presenting problem that the counselor is unaware of which inhibit progress. The counselor need to be aware of any barriers that may exist and attempt to address them or risk having treatment stalling.


Counselling interaction maybe challenging especially where the counselor has to deal with a resisting client. Such a client may show resistance by not completing homework, attending sessions late as well as failure to follow treatment recommendations. It is important for counselors not to be quick to label the clients as resistant without evaluating them accurately as this may result to problems in the relationships. The first step therefore entails accurately defining the resisting clients. An approach for dealing with them is then developed. The first strategy that can be used is adopting the view that it is not possible to change others and one can only change themselves. Therefore, the therapist as opposed to trying to change the client should focus on changing his or her current approach in handling the client. Another way to deal with resistance is doing the unexpected as in most cases, the resisting clients knows the typical approaches and is prepared for them. The resistance shows client's perspective and it is therefore important it is treated carefully and with respect. Generally, the root cause of resistance, for instance failure to complete homework, should be explored and corrective measures implemented.


Dryden, W., & Mytton, J. (2016). Four approaches to counselling and psychotherapy. Routledge.
Duffy P.M. (2016). What to do when a client fails to do assigned homework. New Harbinger publications.
Johnson, S. M. (2012). The practice of emotionally focused couple therapy: Creating connection. Routledge.
Levine, F. M., & Sandeen, E. (2013). Conceptualization in psychotherapy: The models approach. Routledge.
McLeod, J. (2013). An introduction to counselling. McGraw-Hill Education (UK).
Mitchell, C. (2014). Is resistance dead?. Psychotherapy in Australia, 20(2), 26.
Muntigl, P. (2013). Resistance in couples counselling: Sequences of talk that disrupt progressivity and promote disaffiliation. Journal of Pragmatics, 49(1), 18-37.
Shallcross (2017). Managing resistant clients. Counseling today.
Stanley, P. (2013). Defining Counselling Psychology: What do all the Words Mean?. New Zealand Journal of Psychology, 42(3), 27-34.
Wubbolding, R. (2017). Counselling with reality therapy. Routledge.

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