To be a therapist is about making a bond, forming trust, and letting the person who sits across from you know you are there to help them. The challenge is instilling the belief in your patient they have the ability to do better. Sometimes, that doesn't come easily. Reaching a point of growth can be a trial, and the party guilty of it can be who you're working with.
Reddit user, u/ilovespaceack, wanted therapists to speak up and share:
[Serious] Therapists of Reddit: what do you do if you think your client is just generally a bad person?
Monitor Your Personal Values
Value the person always. That doesn't mean you have to like them. If they have personality disorders it is probably prudent to signpost them for DBT rather than keep them in person centred counselling as a singular therapy.
However, if it's just a case of them not fitting in with your own personal values then the therapist needs to reflect on this themselves. What is it about this person I find so difficult? What has happened with me why I have this reaction etc.
Also, for congruence it is important that you are tactfully honest about your feelings. There is room for this in a therapeutic setting.
Help Out, But Be VigilantGiphy
Luckily I've never encountered this with any of my clients. However if this ever does occur in the future, I would most likely like to keep treating them maybe find some insight of what happened to that person, family history, get an understanding of is this person is this person a product of their environment, or genetics, possible both.
But the moment I actually stop having the need to help that person or if I feel they are trying to control the session or manipulate me. I would have to refer them to someone else
Do Your Best To Find That Connection
Out of the hundreds of patients I have seen in my 15 year career as a therapist, there have been only a handful of people I could not connect with and had to transfer to a coworker. These were without exceptions mothers who'd mistreat their children without regret or willingness to reflect on it. I was not the right therapist for them. For all the others, I'd find a way, an angle, anything, be it the t-shirt they were wearing or the smile when they were talking about their pet snake or anything at all really to start connecting. No matter how boring or agressive or adapted someone presents themselves, there is always someone deserving of love and recognition underneath it.
What's the point of keeping it a secret? Two percent of the population are actual psychopaths and whilst many psychopaths are "nice people" there's a cluster of antisocial personality types and if your client belongs to one of those groups they won't be able to manage their own behaviour unless they understand it. I also talk to the family, without breaking confidences, because it lifts an enormous burden if they can understand the pattern of behaviour.
Never be scared.
There are three things a counsellor should provide you with. Congruence (honesty), empathy, seeing your issues from within your frame of reference and unconditional positive regard. You will be held and supported. Most people will go through a period of psychological or emotional distress. It's almost inevitable. Nothing you say will shock or surprise your therapist. And I can totally agree with your fears. I was scared to seek therapy because I felt like I'd be locked up. It was the best thing I ever did and it set me on this path to help others.
Send Them On Their Way
Maybe it's my personal view or my professional training or both, but I've met some incredibly malicious-seeming people, but could never believe them to be bad or evil.
When you speak to these people, they have fantastic justification and persuasion skills. They really believe they're not in the wrong. How can you see someone so lost and out of touch with reality as evil? There is always a thought process, incident, or underlying truth behind all evil thoughts I've encountered in others.
On the other hand, a client that is painfully annoying or I just can't get through to, I refer them to another therapist lol
Push Aside Your Prejudices
I honestly didn't buy into the theory of this at the beginning of my training but now I really do. If ever my own judgments come in when working with a client I have to remind myself that the client is being the best person they can be within their current experiences and conditions. Accepting the client for who they are in front of you and not only seeing them for what they've done and pushing aside your prejudice is hard but worthwhile for me and my clients.
It doesn't mean I have to like a client on a personal level, just accept them for who they are and give them the space to grow. I don't feel the need to change them with my own views.
Sometimes, YOU Need To Speak To Someone
We have a saying in narrative therapy
"The problem is the problem. The person is not the problem."
This statement helps me see my clients more empathically and non-judgementally. We try to see clients holistically, with the recognition that even "bad" behaviours or patterns are coming from somewhere. We don't assign good or bad labels but we focus on the roots of these behaviours/patterns. Understanding a person's context is so important, as is dissecting the reasoning and motivation behind the behaviour.
Personality disorders are much harder to dissect and understand. People diagnosed with a cluster B issues especially are more likely to be labelled. It's important to be conscious of this tendency and recognise that at the end of the day, if they're sitting in your office saying "I need help" or "I want to change", then there's something there. And everyone has that something. :)
I am still human though and if I find myself judging a client or getting triggered or experiencing negative feelings towards them, I seek supervision and try to understand the parts of me that feel this way. When the parts of me communicate, therapy flows much smoother.
I work with a population that is considered by most to be made up of bad people (sexually violent predators). I believe that you as a person are defined by more than your past mistakes.