What to do when change isn't happening
Updated: Feb 3, 2022
I work with smart clients. They know the current wisdom surrounding self-care. Yet sometimes all that knowledge does not work.
My clients already know:
1. Physical Self-Care
2. Social Self-Care
3. Mental Self-Care
4. Spiritual Self-Care
5. Emotional Self-Care
Even though they try to tackle these areas, I continue to get the question “If I know this, why isn’t change happening?”
The short answer is resistance. Maybe, resistance is towards having a close relationship towards the therapist and as a result being unable to accept the interventions your therapist is suggesting. Therapy is more than techniques; it is a relationship. Many of us have difficulties in relationships and the therapeutic relationship is not an exception. Some of us withdraw and detach from the opportunity for closeness. Being resistant to closeness with our therapist, however, can make the process doomed to fail. Then nothing changes.
One thing that I do to help a client who is having difficulty letting go of destructive habits is to spot the defense mechanism, jump in and confront the client with his resistance, point out the consequences of sticking with this defense and finally present him with a choice. Here is an example:
“I wonder if you notice that when we want to talk about your wife, you become vague and rationalize. However, by being vague and rationalizing we are not going to understand where the problem lies. The reason that you came to therapy in the first place is to get help. So, if you we take a look at the specific things that have bothered you in your relationship with your wife, instead of being vague, this would be a part of getting help.”
There are times when just bringing these consequences to light will be enough to pause or slow down your resistance.
Passivity is another form of resistance in therapy. If I am passive with my therapist, I may avoid the aspects of therapy only I can do for myself. Instead of asking myself, “What can I do about…?” I instead take the attitude that the therapist is all knowing and omnipotent and will sit back and do nothing. Then nothing changes.
In addition, people tend not to do good things for people they do not like, even themselves. Feelings of self-loathing and self-hate are one of the first things to work on in therapy. If these ways of relating are not addressed adequately they can interfere with the progress of therapy; treatment resistance. Then nothing changes.
Remember that initially your defenses are there because they are trying to protect you from suffering. However, defenses create problems and even your symptoms. If you can see how your defenses create your problems, you will want to turn against them and hopefully face your feelings instead.