My Dos and Don’ts as a Therapist, Part II (The Don’ts)

I continue this week with the last of a two-part blog on how I approach therapy as a licensed professional counselor. Last week’s blog article focused on the aspects I attempt to include in a client’s therapeutic experience with myself. Next I share what I try to avoid (the don’ts).

Don’t. I don’t tell my clients what they should do, even when they want me to!! I don’t feel like this is my role. I reiterate things my clients have told me and ask them thought-provoking questions to help them come to their own conclusions. Certainly I can and do share my concerns and caution about foreseeable outcomes, but ultimately the decision belongs to the client. As much as I try to understand the individuals and couples I work with, I, at most, only spend one hour a week with them and have no way to know all the contributing factors to their predicament.

Don’t. I don’t self-disclose much (or make the conversation about me). One of the most frequent things I hear when clients have worked with other therapists before coming to see me is that they felt the therapist talked too much about themselves. I think some minimal self-disclosure by therapists is OK and can be helpful. I don’t have the same rapport with any two clients but sometimes a little small talk seems to make a newer or anxious client feel more comfortable. I feel the priority should always be the client and if I share anything at all on a deeper level, I make sure I have asked myself if my reason for sharing is to benefit the client. (When a therapist shares a little about themselves, clients may feel some relief and feel less judged, realizing therapists are not perfect and make mistakes). The key seems to be able to find an appropriate balance.

Don’t. One of our ethics as counselors is to make sure we don’t provide therapy on an issue that would be outside our scope of practice; basically this means we have been properly educated and trained before applying certain techniques and approaches with clients. For me this starts with the initial call from a potential client. I often find that I have to clarify upfront that as a professional counselor I am not able to prescribe medications. I am also frequently asked if I specialize in certain areas. When the situation calls for it, I am sure to explain that it may be a clinical issue I have experience with (or not if that is the case) but can’t be considered specifically a specialist. I am more than happy to point the inquirer in the right direction (refer to another professional) to the best of my knowledge and professional connections.

It is my hope that after reading this and my last blog article, you have a better idea of my therapy approach. I appreciate your interest and hope you continue visiting my blog!

Rita Hansen is a licensed professional counselor with Sioux Falls Wellness Counseling. She can be reached by calling (605) 610-9228.