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Research Paper Assessment Name: Jennifer Gastelum Date: Email: Aznative371@comcast.


Complete your 2000 word research paper and insert it in the space below. Then email this document as an attachment to

RESISTANT CLIENTS: How to Identify and Work With Them

by: Jennifer Gastelum

October 2012

CONTENTS Resistant Clients History of Resistance Resistance in Coaching Techniques for Working Through Resistance Conclusion References Page 4 4 5 6 10 11

Resistant Clients Resistance, as defined by the Oxford Dictionary is the refusal to accept or comply with something (Oxford Dictionary, 2012). Resistance in coaching is often misunderstood and is viewed by many coaches as negative. There are many reasons for resistance in the coaching process and there are just as many ways to work with clients to help them move through resistance into action. Resistance is a topic that should be fully understood by coaches. Techniques used to manage it should be developed in order to achieve successful outcomes for the clients and to avoid stress and burn-out by coaches.

History of Resistance Resistance was first addressed by Sigmund Freud in the early 1900s. He believed that the discovery of the unconscious and the introduction of it into consciousness is performed in the face of a continuous resistance on the part of the patient. The process of bringing this unconscious material to light is associated with pain, and because of this pain the patient again and again rejects it (Freud, 1959). Basically, Freud believed that resistance was an unconscious defense mechanism which surfaced when patients were facing changes that made them feel uncomfortable. He believed the origin of resistance lay inside the individual as they were repressing anxiety, provoking memories, or trying to suppress the therapists influence. Freud held that therapists should allow clients to work through resistance. He thought that therapists should remain neutral, saying only as much as "is absolutely necessary to keep him [the patient] talking, so that resistance could be seen as clearly as 4

possible in patients' transference, and become obvious to the patients themselves. (Freud, 1959). Over time resistance has been studied by every type of therapist from cognitivebehavioral to systemic. Cognitive-behaviorists believe that resistance is due to the client lacking the skills or knowledge needed to complete the behavior. Systemic therapists believe that resistance is due to the client being fearful that the change will create a negative impact upon the family. In fact, over 400 theories of counseling and psychotherapy acknowledge resistance as a common therapeutic experience and client response (Watson, 2006). Every type of therapy has its own beliefs regarding the causes and associated techniques for working with resistance in treatment.

Resistance in Coaching Psychological resistance is a process of avoiding or diminishing the selfdisclosing communication requested by the interviewer because of its capacity to make the interviewee uncomfortable or anxious (Pope. 1979, p.4). Resistance is a generic term that represents a host of different states and reactions. It can take the form of the client restricting or controlling the information given to the coach. Examples include: when they talk about irrelevant topics, get stuck in the past or ask a series of meaningless questions. They may try and manipulate information or the coach directly in order to avoid certain topics. Being late for appointments or cancelling appointments can also be related to resistance. It can also manifest as blaming, excusing, minimizing, arguing, challenging, interrupting and ignoring. Basically any behavior displayed by clients which

tries to prevent the coach from fully understanding their position could be viewed as resistance. Resistance in clients can also be due to a number of different factors. It could be a sign of fear of failure, fear of taking risks, manipulation, passive-aggressive behavior, shame, jealousy, desire to sabotage the therapy relationship, exhaustion, personality style or a client who enjoys resisting (Mitchell, 2006). Other reasons include defiance, poor insight, fear, embarrassment, denial, misconceptions, concealing and feeling unworthy. (Rudlin, 2012) Resistance in coaching is a natural process and should not be viewed as a negative in any way. Coaches need to learn how to recognize resistance and understand the client is responding in such a manner for a reason. It is up to the coach to see the world through their clients eyes in order to understand the behavior. According to Clifton Mitchell, encountering resistance is likely evidence that therapy is taking place. In fact, several studies indicate that successful therapy is highly related to increases in resistance, and that low resistance corresponds with negative outcomes (Bischoff and Tracey, 1995). Coaches need to first identify what type of resistance is taking place and then apply the appropriate technique for helping the client move through resistance into goal achievement.

Techniques for Working Through Resistance As stated earlier, there is no one single cause for resistance in the coaching process. That being said, there are a number of techniques for dealing with resistance. It

is up to the coach to determine the likely cause in order to choose the appropriate technique to manage resistance. Over the years, the concept of resistance has changed from something inside the client to a dynamic between the client and the coach. This is a beneficial change as the second view allows the coach to make changes in their interactions with the client in order to manage resistance. Through review of the recent literature, the most cited cause of resistance is that the coach and the client do not have mutually agreed upon goals, or the coach has made incorrect judgments. At the first sign of resistance the coach needs to check in with their client and determine if they are both on the same page. The coach may have misunderstood the clients goals or they may even have injected their own goals for their client. According to Shallcross, it is important for counselors to connect with clients on the basis of the clients reality rather than putting emphasis on the counselors agenda (Shallcross, 2010). To remedy this situation, take time with your client to review all of their goals. During this review process make sure to establish very specific, attainable goals. The goals should be worded in a positive manner such as I will do (fill in the blank) instead of I will not do (fill in the blank). Once the final goals are set, work with the client to develop very specific goals and sub goals. Another reason resistance appears is when a client wants to change but is afraid of the change process. Making changes, big or small, can be anxiety provoking in some clients. This is where resistance becomes a defense mechanism. In this situation, maintaining the dysfunctional behavior outweighs the benefits of overcoming them. In this case the coach should suspend talking about change and focus on identifying and 7

addressing the fear. After the fear has been resolved then the coaching process can return to what actions need to be taken. A client may become resistant if the coach is pushing them too much. Often, the coach wants the change more than the client does. Coaches will notice this when they feel like they are doing more work in the session than the client or if they find themselves becoming frustrated that the client has not made enough progress. When faced with this the coach needs to relax and let the client determine their course of action and the pace in which they will act. Coaches need to remember that progress for one person may look very different from another. Another reason for resistance is when a coach is moving too fast. Change is very scary for some, and if they are pushed they will resist. The harder they are pushed the more they will resist. A coach facing this situation needs to back up to a point where the client was comfortable. Start from this point and take very small steps forward. Slow to the point where you feel that the client is pushing the coach forward, not the other way around. Basically revert to taking baby steps. Do not make the assumption that clients need to move at a specific pace. For some, very small steps forward is huge progress. Not everyone needs to make massive changes to make progress toward their goals. Lack of feeling empathy may be a cause for resistance during the change process. Clients rarely change because of logic; they change due to an emotionally compelling reason. If the coach does not show they truly understand the client, the client will shut down and stop forward progress. If a client is faced with lack of empathy they will not feel the safety they need to progress forward. Faced with this situation, the coach needs to work on developing empathy for the client. Try to truly understand where the client is 8

coming from, what they are going through, and what they are feeling. When questioning a client, use at least one empathetic response for every few questions asked. After coaching a long-term client, coaches tend to decrease empathic responses. Lack of empathy over time will develop into lack of rapport. If there is no rapport the client will not trust the coaching process and will not move forward. A client may become resistant due to influences outside the coaching process. The changes the client is attempting to make may not be supported by their friends and/or family members. These individuals may attempt to sabotage their efforts because they want them to remain the same. Another possibility here is that the client may be seeking treatment because they are being coerced by another. They might be trying to appease another without any intention of changing. Here the coach must spend time exploring the support the client is receiving from outside sources and also look at the motivation for change. If you are facing a client who is being resistant, it is necessary to avoid giving advice. The more advice that is given provides the client with more to resist against. A sure sign you are dealing with this type of resistance is the yes, but response. A technique in this situation is to reverse the paradox. The more obvious possible solutions become the more nave, inexperienced and uncertain your displayed attitude toward these solutions should be. The principal here is that your client cannot be resistant if there is nothing to resist (Mitchell, 2006). The coach should maintain an attitude of uncertainty and surprise when the client is approaching a solution in this situation.

Conclusion Even though many coaches may dislike when they are faced with resistance, it should not be viewed in a negative manner. The pessimistic view of resistance should be reframed into a perspective that the coaching process is working, and that change is beginning to take place. By using appropriate techniques, resistance can be worked through and the client will then be on their way to achieving their goals. Coaches need to recognize that there are many different reasons for resistance in their clients. It is first important to recognize the reason for the resistance and then determine the appropriate technique which will allow resolution. There is no one sure fire method for dealing with resistance in a client. Once a coach becomes skilled in identifying the type of resistance, the resolution will be easier attained. Learning to manage resistance is as important for the clients sake as for the coach. Resistance is a common obstacle faced by every coach. If a coach is unable to

manage resistance they will become unhappy. This will be picked up by the clients and they will react. This is the beginning of a downward spiral. Coaches enter the profession because they want to help people. If they feel they are not being helpful frustration will set in. Over time the frustration will develop into burnout. Once coaches learn that resistance is actually positive and it is within their control as coaches they will be able to decrease the amount of stress they face and their career will become more rewarding.


References Bischoff, M. M. & Tracey, T. J. G. (1995). Client resistance as predicted by therapist behavior: A study of sequential dependence. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 42(4), 487-495. Freud, S (1959). Freuds psycho-analytic procedure. In J. Strachey (Ed. & Trans.) The standard edition of the complete psychological works of Sigmund Freud (Vol. 7, pp. 249270). London: Hogarth Press. (Original work published in 1904). Freud, S. (1959). Further recommendations in the technique of psychoanalysis. In E. Jones (Ed.) & J. Riviere (Trans.) Collected Papers (Vol. 2, pp. 342365). New York: Basic Books. (Original work published in 1913.) Mitchell, C. (2006). Resistant Clients: Weve all had them; heres how to manage them. Oxford Dictionary (2012). Pope, B. (1979). The Mental Health Interview. New York: Pergamon. Rudlin, K. (2012). 10 reasons troubled teens resist treatment. Shallcross, L (2010). Managing Resistant Clients. Counseling Today. Watson, J. (2006). Addressing Client Resistance: Recognizing and processing in-session occurrences.