What is Resistance in Psychotherapy ?

Resistance is a psychoanalytical term; it is used to describe situations when a client actively or passively resists any change in behaviour. It is anything that stops therapeutic change.

This can take many forms, it could be that they keep cancelling appointments, they may not speak at sessions, they could be negative thinking when we are perusing positive thoughts, maybe a goal that was set to complete was ignored, they could resist trance intentionally, they could dismiss the SFH model and try to sway us in to more analytical methods, what ever it may be, it will slow their progress and could convince the therapist that the sessions are worthless. But, those “resistant” clients still attend, so maybe they are still getting a benefit from seeing their therapist.

So, what can we do?

Actively fighting resistance rarely works. Instead, the reason for the resistance should be discussed to explore what is causing it. Pointing out that a client appears to be exhibiting some resistance, allows you to process it and move beyond it. They may feel that the decision to attend therapy wasn’t theirs, this in itself opens up a vast SFH conversation and could get the client to buy back in, “so what small thing can you do to get your parents off your back?”

We need to explain to clients that they need to participate in the sessions, we could set ground rules, we could get the client to come up with solutions to their current resistance, “so what could we do differently to make these sessions more beneficial to you? “

It could well be that the therapist has got it wrong, we should not assume that it’s the client that is resistant until we have explored if we ourselves should have been doing something different to get the best out of our client. Our manner towards the client should be thought about, are we friendly, positive, professional, are we giving benefit and value? Rapport is so important!

We have a very well-structured process and we need to ensure that we adhere to it, to allow clients to make the very best progress. Sometimes it may be considered to do a back to the start session to remind the client what the process and structure can do for them.

Resistance comes in many forms and we should remain positive that we will over come it and if the challenge is a challenge too far, discuss with your supervisor as the therapist could well be missing some thing obvious and vital to get the client back on the same hymn sheet.

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