The Ideal Client?
With the advent of my new private practice and website, I’ve often been asked to consider who would be my “ideal” client. To be honest, I was so busy with the mechanics of setting up my private practice that I overlooked considering what type of client I’d like to work with. However, after all the dust settled from setting up my practice, I seriously began considering the characteristics I’d like to see in a client.
For me, the word “ideal” is fraught with allusions of perfectionism; something which we as fallible humans fall short of. I’d like to think that an ideal client is someone who has the courage to readily explore their issues and is willing to do the work necessary for changing deleterious behaviors. This however, is often not the case.
More often than not, people come to psychotherapy feeling anxious to share their problems with a complete stranger. A client’s initial reluctance to the therapeutic process doesn’t make them less than ideal. Instead, being hesitant to open up during the first initial sessions of psychotherapy is a natural reaction to the fear of the unknown.
As a psychotherapist I am acutely aware that most people are fearful of change and are, therefore, resistant to psychological help. While there are varying degrees of resistance during the initial phase of psychotherapy, reluctance to change old thoughts and patterns of behavior for better coping skills, doesn’t necessarily define a client as less than ideal. Conversely, resistance, reluctance and hesitancy are integrals parts of the psychotherapeutic process.
As the client works through their resistance during the therapeutic process, they work towards solutions and outcomes that are suitable to their unique challenges. That being said, an ideal client can be defined as someone who is working towards becoming their ideal self.
The therapeutic process between the psychotherapist and client is dynamic and reciprocal. It becomes an alliance in which one is ineffectual without the other. Therefore, as the psychotherapist guides the client towards working through layers of resistance, he or she also becomes more effective with practice techniques. In sum, it is through the therapeutic relationship that beneficial change is effected in both the client and psychotherapist.
It is a natural tendency for therapists to desire working with clients who are highly motivated. We therapists always want our clients to be successful in their endeavor to change behaviors that undermine their well-being. However, while helping our clients understand and overcome their unique challenges, it’s important to remember that an “ideal” patient is someone who is working towards their ideal goals.
Donnie Gayfield, LCSW
Usually when I read an article that helps me to understand and deal more effectively with life stressors, I keep them in my personal binder of “inspirational readings.” I re-read these articles regularly to bolster my ability for withstanding life-challenges.
One of my many favorite articles “10 Traits of Emotionally Strong People,”resonates deeply with me. This article defines in simple terms the 10 important characteristics that are usually found within emotionally resilient people. I found this article to be both illuminating and mentally stimulating. I hope you feel the same after reading it.