Not everyone who comes to counselling wants to change. That can be a tough concept to swallow for many people in the helping field, myself included. Whether it is through school or just our own ideas of therapy, many therapists are under the impression they should be able to help everyone and if they don’t it can be viewed as failure. I know for myself, if I am working with someone and it feels like we aren’t getting anywhere I try to step back and ask “who is working harder?’ In grad school one of my profs said that a therapist should not work harder than the client. That really stuck with me because I can provide someone with the tools to do things differently, but ultimately it is up to them to implement them. This concept can also be hard for family and friends of a loved one who doesn’t want to change destructive behaviors.
It can be extremely hard to watch someone we care about struggle. We want to protect our loved ones from making mistakes and getting hurt. However, sometimes this can be the best thing for them. Life is full of challenges and risks and we are undoubtedly going to make mistakes, some bigger than others. While difficult sometimes the best way to help someone is step back and put some boundaries in place. For example, we might have someone in our life who is dealing with an addiction that they are not ready to change. Putting up boundaries might mean sharing our concerns, but not trying to force treatment. It also might mean limiting our contact with that person and not providing financial help that might feed their addiction. Ultimately our loved one has to want to change in order for change to occur.
Sometimes we don’t know if someone wants to change and the best thing we can do to find out is ask. On my end of things, I am trying to be more upfront with clients to determine if they want help with their problem or if they just want to talk about. I would encourage you to do the same. We then need to respect their answer and find our way back to our own pile (see post #6 Whose Pile are You In?).