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Clients who want to fail

Some clients want to fail. Some clients are afraid of failure, others are afraid of success. Being a therapist you have to deal with whatever the client brings. You put yourself under constant pressure to get the right result. We worry about whether we have enough knowledge, enough training and whether we are good enough at all. And we are very disappointed when we fail.

We always assume the client  wants to succeed too. But there are also clients who want to fail. I was reminded of this by a client I saw recently. She has a long history of drug abuse, emotional outbursts, destructive behavior and failed relationships. She is clearly unhappy, her life is out of control and she is afraid that she will attempt suicide again. 

And yet I got the distinct impression that she does not want the therapy to succeed. She is willing to go through the motions, to say the right things, to pretend to go along with what other people want for her. But deep down inside she is afraid of not being able to cope if she does change.

She feels that if she gets cleaned up from drugs then she will be on her own again. She does not believe that she has the strength to survive without drugs. Stopped taking them before has always left her feeling awful. That feeling just  got worse and worse over time until she no choice but to go back on the drugs and ended up more dependent than ever. She knows that stopping is not the answer for her. So she is not going to stop. 

This attitude is entirely understandable. She is simply protecting herself from future pain. 

What can you do when the client wants to fail?

David Mason

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