Thursday, January 29, 2015

7 Ways To Practice Confidence With Your First Clients - Even When You Don't Feel It Yourself

The first time that you meet with a client is a heady mix of thrill and terror. It will probably seem both like it came too quickly and you've been waiting way too long for it

And one of the biggest things on your mind during those first few meetings? 

"How can I inspire trust in my clients so that they can open up and get the help they need?" 

One of the most effective ways of inspiring trust is displaying confidence in your own ability to help your clients. When you trust yourself, your clients will trust you. But how can you display confidence in your abilities when you're struggling to feel it yourself? 

Though I dislike the connotation of the maxim, "fake it till you make it," I have to admit the principle applies here! The more you practice self-confidence, the more you will feel it - and conversely, the less you practice self-confidence the more likely you are to get stuck in a cycle of feeling like a failure. You practice self-confidence by identifying the anxieties in your mind that are attacking your faith in yourself, and creating a new framework of understanding to operate from going forward. 

7 Ways To Practice Confidence With Your First Clients - Even When You Don't Feel It Yourself

  1. Instead of worrying over what you don't know, take stock of what you DO know. What do you do well? What did your professors praise you for in class exercises? Try to come up with at least 5 things that you can pull out in situations in which confidence is hard to to find.
  2. Check their expectations - which are probably not what YOU think they think. We can pretty easily work ourselves up wondering if this client is thinking we're messing things up, or that we're no good at what we do. But really, how likely is it that that condemning US is what's most on their mind right now? Practice telling yourself that they have other things to worry about then our abilities, such as the reasons they are coming in to get help from a counselor. 
  3. Get a yay-sayer in your life. Everybody needs someone encouraging around them on a regular basis! For many of you that will be your clinical supervisor, but if not, connect with a fellow counseling student or layperson friend who can tell you that the small things you are agonizing over really aren't that big of a deal.
  4. Pre-settle the "experience" question. A lot of us in the student stage get ensnared by the experience question, i.e. "How can you know what I'm going through? Do you have (fill in the blank) kids/husband/wife/traumatic experience/death of a loved one. You're never going to "win" by a direct yes or no answer to this question, because there will always be some experience you have not shared. Plan on how to deal with it using a version of these two responses: 1) Getting at the real question: "Why does it matter to you if I've been through that? Your experience is what matters." And 2) Getting clear on the fundamentals: "I may or may not have been through _______ but I've felt pain before, and pain is pain no matter where it comes from." 
  5. Don't be afraid to say that you don't know. You might think the worst possible thing you can say for inspiring trust is "I don't know." But you can't possibly know everything! It's all in the attitude. If you calmly and evenly say, "You know what? I don't know the answer to that right now, but it's important to me and I will look into it before our next session" it will both inspire trust and provide excellent client care.
  6. Remember the "get-to-know-you" gap. When you first meet a new client, it honestly takes a minimum of 1 1/2 sessions to start to get a handle on the least it does for me! Before then, we may have some idea, but we don't have enough information to move forward. So don't pressure yourself to know everything right away. No one does!
  7. LISTEN. Sometimes, you don't have to have the answers to inspire trust. Sometimes, you just have to be willing to listen. 
When you struggle with self-confidence in beginning counselor training, what do you do or say to yourself to remind yourself of what you have to offer?