Nov 16, 2020
In this episode, Faith Dulin and I talk about her experiences as a new therapist and working on boundaries with people. As therapists, we like to be accommodating. However, people-pleasing will take a toll over an extended period of time. One way that Faith works on her boundaries is by seeing her own therapist. Plus, we talk about working with clients who are challenging to engage with, and we give tips on building rapport with clients upfront.
I moved to Charlotte from the West Coast 20+ years ago. I have a military background and worked uptown in corporate America before completing my degrees in Psychology, Sociology, and Marriage and Family Therapy. In my free time, I gush over dogs on Instagram, enjoy sports, and like taking pictures.
My counseling style is a balance between challenging and cheer-leading. I have a contemporary approach that’s less theory-oriented and more real talk. I’m not reclined in my chair with a monocle, analyzing your every move. I’m listening, I’m curious, I’m aware that behaviors make sense in context. I want to understand you and know what you want in life so we can figure out how to get there. I provide helpful feedback, compassionate support, and take-home strategies and tools. The relationship you have with yourself sets the tone for all other relationships, and I want to empower you to create the love and life you deserve.
Faith is putting together a book around the concept of boundaries that doesn't have a religious foundation. There are practical ways to set boundaries without feeling like a jerk. Therapists can struggle with boundaries. For example, some therapists will become heavily invested in their client's lives and their success. Another example of poor boundaries is when a therapist may have social media interactions with their clients. Sometimes, therapists will talk to their clients over the weekend. Also, therapists that handle money will have a challenging time setting a boundary with their clients. We need to continue to work on boundaries. One way that Faith works on her boundaries is by seeing her own therapist.
In graduate school, therapists are told they should be gentle and non-confrontational. Everyone has a different style of working with clients. Faith says that she likes to be direct and confrontational. It's essential to label behaviors, even if it isn't warmly received. If a client does not take the label well, it's probably not the right fit for Faith. Clients need to find a therapist that's a good fit for them. If you are not the right therapist for a client, then you shouldn't take it personally. The client must benefit from therapy. If the client doesn't work well with you, it will be best for both of you to go separate ways.
Faith tends to get male clients that hate therapy – they think it's a bunch of BS. When it's a couple, Faith says that their wife has made them go to therapy. However, men like when Faith gives it to them straight. It's essential to build rapport and trust with your clients. For Faith, she works with police and first responders. A lot of times, these men will come and test her as a therapist. They want to know if their trauma will rattle you. Faith likes to hold a safe space for clients so that they will learn to trust her. When you have that trust, then your relationship with clients can withstand challenging moments in therapy.
Therapists can create false mutual pretense. When someone is resistant to therapy, then they are probably testing you out. We should be able to label that dynamic from the beginning. Gordon will ask their clients what sort of experiences they have had with therapy in the past. He says that talking to strangers about personal stuff isn't on anyone's top ten list of things to do. Gordon will let his clients know that he admires their bravery to talk to him. That way, people will let their guard down. Gordon learned this when working with teenagers; they can be resistant to therapy. It's crazy to spill your guts to a total stranger! So we must acknowledge this aspect of therapy.
You can share personal things with clients to build your credibility. Clients feel better about a therapist that does a bit of self-disclosure about their struggles. It will help deal with demanding clients. There are some clients that you have to spend more time engaging and aligning. The client must buy into the therapeutic process so they will share and open up with their therapist. Listen to Jeff Geunther on The Practice of Therapy to learn more about self-disclosure in the therapy room.
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Gordon is the person behind The Practice of Therapy Podcast & Blog. He is also President and Founder of Kingsport Counseling Associates, PLLC. He is a therapist, consultant, business mentor, trainer, and writer. PLEASE Subscribe to The Practice of Therapy Podcast wherever you listen to it. Follow us on Twitter @therapistlearn, and Pinterest, “Like” us on Facebook.