Thursday, August 21, 2014

Who Else Wants to Measure Client Success?

Ever wonder if your efforts with clients are getting anywhere? Are you making the difference you hope to with your interventions and techniques, or are they falling flat? 

How do you know if you’re being effective in your client work?

This time in your life (practicum & internship) is all about trying new things. You’re supposed to be experimenting and finding your own personal style. But in order to do that, you need to measure the results of the new things you’re trying.

You can test the effect of your interventions on client’s stated goals by looking for these key signals as a sign that something is happening. You might not know what it means yet, but you will be able to identify that there is a reaction that means something.

The client asks specific questions about your intervention. Example: “How long do we take a time-out? What should I say to my partner when I need a break, so that they don’t feel abandoned?” This means they are engaged with the logic of what you’re suggesting and seriously considering putting it into play. The real test, of course, is to see if they…

Come back and tell you about trying it. Example: “We did this and it really worked! We were able to communicate so much better afterwards.” This is one of the most straightforward and welcome ways for you to recognize the benefits of your work…it helps your confidence a great deal when a client can specifically tell you about what worked and didn’t work. If they do not do this on their own, I encourage you to come right out and ask! It will show them you care and help you monitor your progress as well as theirs.

The client is super-quiet, even still. Example: You suggest something they could try to alleviate a symptom of their problem. A normally chatty, even bubbly person, may become quiet and not move. He/She may look at the wall or their hands. This is a sign of contemplation, obviously, but at another level like a kind of shock, indicating you may have shared with them an idea that is new to them and needs to absorb. When the client does this, consider simply mirroring them until they speak again – if it is quiet for a long while, you might also reflect the situation back to them. “It seems like you got really quiet there. Did something about that hit a nerve?”

The client starts making jokes. Example: You say, “Have you thought about telling your family you’re taking medication now?” They say, “Oh, sure, I’ll can’t wait to tell them I’m on drugs!” While a little dark humor can actually be a healthy way to process (seriously, they’ve done research) it can also be a way to deflect from feelings of fear or confusion. The fact that they want to deflect is a sign you’ve hit on something that matters, so follow up on it with them.

The client gets angry or belligerent. Example: When you suggest something, they say, “That seems like a terrible idea. It doesn’t make any sense. Why would you waste my time?” etc. Like inappropriate humor or sarcasm, this is a way to push you away and get you to focus on something else rather than what you suggested. This aggressive behavior could be physical, verbal, manipulative (passive-aggression) or sexual (flirting or come-ons) but the point of it all is the same. You got to something they want to protect. If at all possible, it’s important to not react and stay focused on the problem they’re covering up. Stay safe, but if you can, try to connect with them before they lead you off the track. 

These are signs that you are making progress in counseling. The ultimate sign of progress, of course, is when you run out of things to talk about. You know they’re not holding back, they’re simply done with their goals. That’s when you can begin to ease them back into a more independent process of self-exploration. But until that point, these clues above can help you know you’re on the right track.

What signs do you look for to measure client successes? Comment below!  

And join me on Sept. 2 for a