You Could Be Annoying Your Clients Without Knowing It

By Gareth Holman, PhD

I know you are a good person. And like me, you might be losing clients, failing to get their buy-in, or making them feel unseen in critical moments.  

We all have blind spots like this. It’s just how we’re wired. And we can succeed despite them. In fact, our most productive growth often comes from learning from these limitations—by beginning to see them clearly and work through them.

This is sometimes as simple as stopping something you typically do in your practice. For example, stop over-explaining homework assignments. Let clients ask more questions. Stop taking on the obligation to have all the answers for your clients. Instead, take a breath, say that you don’t know, and ask what the client thinks. Stop speaking from your head when sharing your appreciation of a client’s struggle. Instead, say half as many words from your heart. 

You may realize your limitations with 100% clarity if you watch yourself on tape. Other times, the change requires deeper reflection, because it will invite you to settle into a more visceral vulnerability or because your mind will not offer up a clear solution even if you watch yourself on tape. 

How can you get there? How do you cross the gap from working within a model, perhaps quite skillfully, to identifying your unique limitations (your therapy model can’t identify these for you)—limitations that you may be unable to see? 

You need an ongoing reflective practice. You need a method of getting feedback from clients. And perhaps most usefully, you need a small group of colleagues who know you and will offer you real feedback. 

A few suggestions to help you get started on your self-reflective practice: 

Check out the workbook by James Bennett-Levy et al: Experiencing CBT from the Inside Out.


       My book is also a great resource, 

       Functional Analytic Psychotherapy Made Simple

       For a feedback method, check out the session bridging form. 



For a practice community, you could hire a consultant (forming a community of two).

You could also join my upcoming online courseThis could be your consultation group. 

Regardless of the method you choose, you are going to have to contend with your blind spots and the limitations lurking in those blind spots. If you look, clearly and honestly, you will find things to work on. Perhaps more importantly, you will also have to contend with the discomfort you feel when you see yourself clearly and make an effort to change.

You can see immediate benefits from actually seeing yourself: recording yourself and then watching the video—or watching it with other people. If you just stopped breathing . . .

First, I refer you to Prince: Let’s Go Crazy. (Seriously read it.)

Second, I refer you to this picture:  

Third, I request that you record yourself talking about something you care about deeply. Go for a minute or two. Speak into the camera as though you are speaking to someone you love. Don’t perform. Let yourself be shy, and say umm too much, and ramble. 

Now watch the video. That is you. Watch it up to 30 times as needed, until you get that it is you and you are able to watch it with your eyes open with minimal flinching.

I will also suggest: When you’re doing therapy and you’re not at your best, and when you watch that on tape and you cringe, that’s you too. At the same time, it’s not you. It’s just what you are doing. Your work is not you. As my friend says, “No picking and choosing. We stand in shared vulnerable humanity.”

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, and you’re still unwilling to videotape yourself, then I humbly suggest that you watch a video of yourself 30 times. Any video will do. It will be hard, but it will be worth it.

The same is true of working through your blind spots. You can see and change the things that limit you as a therapist, and you can escape from the blind spots that undermine your work. It will be hard. But it will be worth it too.

If you would like help taking some steps forward, join my eight session online course. Thursdays, beginning April 6th: 

Advance Your Clinical Practice with Functional Analytic Psychotherapy

We would love to have you.