I think most people come into counseling having hit rock bottom. They realize somewhere along the way things went wrong, and they can’t see a clear way through the storm of life they’re currently experiencing. However, there is always an exception to the rule. The person blinded by his or her own biases is one of them.
“I’m not the problem, you’re the problem.” If you haven’t heard this yet as a counselor you’re not doing your job. As an “objective” third party we can see the layout of our client’s life in ways they’re not able. This becomes especially hard when they are unable or not willing to see what the counselor is trained to see. What they need to hear is, “The way you are choosing to live life is dysfunctional.” I hate to say these words directly, however, sometimes I feel I’m left with no other choice. When you spend ten or eleven meetings analyzing and reflecting, only to have no progress towards healing or change, it becomes obvious your partner on this adventure known as therapy got off at the last stop and you’ve been talking to yourself.
The truth is, I hate to say these words because they’re not usually effective. There is a myriad of reasons why this happens, and the counselor’s job is to be empathic and sensitive to resistance. But when does your sensitivity turn into an enabling relationship? For me personally and professionally, it is when my conscience can’t take it anymore, it’s when I feel I’m watching the person in front of me self-destruct, and when he or she destroys their relationships with others to an extent there may not be recovery. Of course it doesn’t always work…it’s a blinding bias for a reason. So what do you do?
From a professional perspective, there’s not much you can do. You continue to get on the merry-go-round of false schemas and defense mechanisms your client has created, hoping at some point they’ll get sick of going in circles. Or you could choose to confront, confront, confront until the client drops from therapy. Either way it’s their choice, and this is the most painful part of our profession. I think watching the sick choose to get sicker is the hard part of digging deep into the lives of people you care about. It’s extremely difficult to watch them self-destruct, but maybe that’s what helps them get better.