is a predictive of poor treatment outcomes and lack of involvement in the therapeutic process.
One view of resistance is that the client is behaving defiantly. Another
is that resistance is a signal that the client views the situation differently. This
requires that the therapist understand the client’s perspective. This is
usually a signal for the therapist to change direction or to listen more carefully.
to resistance is similar to avoiding argument in that it offers another chance for the therapist to express empathy by remaining
nonjudgmental and respectful, encouraging the client to talk and to stay involved. The
therapist should avoid evoking resistance whenever possible, and divert or deflect the energy the client is investing in resistance
toward positive change.
of resistance and how a therapist could avoiding arguing and adapt to resistance:
• Simple reflection: The
simplest approach to responding to resistance is with nonresistance, by repeating the client’s statement in a neutral
form. This acknowledges and validates what the client has said and can elicit
an opposing response.
I don’t plan to quit drinking anytime soon.
You don’t think that abstinence would work for you right now.
• Amplified reflection:
Another strategy is to reflect the client’s statement in an exaggerated form—to state it in a more extreme way
but without sarcasm. This can move the client toward positive change rather than
I don’t know why my wife is worried about this. I don’t drink
So your wife is worrying needlessly.
• Double-sided reflection:
A third strategy entails acknowledging what the client has said but then also stating contrary things she has said in the
past. This requires the use of information that the client has offered previously,
although perhaps not in the same session.
I know you want me to give up drinking completely, but I’m not going to do that!
You can see that there are some real problems here, but you’re not will to think about quitting altogether.
• Shifting focus: You
can defuse resistance by helping the client shift focus away from obstacles and barriers.
This method offers an opportunity to affirm your client’s personal choice regarding the conduct of his own life.
I can’t stop smoking pot when all my friends are doing it.
You’re way ahead of me. We’re still exploring your concerns about
whether you can get into college. We’re not ready yet to decide how marijuana
fits into your goals.
• Agreement with a twist:
A subtle strategy is to agree with the client, but with a slight twist or change
of direction that propels the discussion forward.
Why are you and my wife so stuck on my drinking? What about all her problems? You’d
drink, too, if your family were nagging you all the time.
You’ve got a good point there, and that’s important. There is a bigger
picture here, and maybe I haven’t been paying enough attention to that. It’s
not as simple as one person’s drinking. I agree with you that we shouldn’t
be trying to place blame here. Drinking problems like these do involve the whole
• Reframing: A good strategy
to use when a client denies personal problems is reframing—offering a new and positive interpretation of negative information
provided by the client.
My husband is always nagging me about my drinking—always calling me an alcoholic.
It really bugs me.
It sounds like he really cares about you and is concerned, although he expresses it in a way that makes you angry. Maybe we can help him learn how to tell you he loves you and is worried about you in a more positive and
• Siding with the negative:
One more strategy for adapting to client resistance is to take the negative voice in the discussion. This is not “reverse psychology,” nor does it involve the ethical quandaries of prescribing
more of the symptom, as in a “therapeutic paradox.” Siding with the
negative is stating what the client has already said while arguing against changes, perhaps as an amplified reflection. The therapist should be cautious in using this too early in treatment or with depressed
Well, I know some people think I drink too much, and I may be damaging my liver, but I still don’t believe I’m
an alcoholic or in need of treatment.
We’ve spent considerable time now going over your positive feelings and concerns about your drinking, but you still
don’t think you are ready or want to change your drinking patterns. Maybe
changing would be too difficult for you, especially if you really want to stay the same.
Anyway, I’m not sure you believe you could change even if you really wanted to.