This posting is designed to be useful for therapists, specifically NLP-trained ones, but might also be helpful to therapists working in other modes, coaches, and even management consultants.
I occasionally dip into forums for NLP therapists and trainers on Facebook and elsewhere. The most common type of post I see there is along these lines: “I’m not quite sure what to do with this client – can you help? ” They then go on to give a very brief description of the client and their presenting issue, and the techniques (it’s always techniques) that they’ve tried so far that haven’t worked.
Then other forum members will make suggestions about what the therapist could do to help this client that they’ve never seen, on the basis of the therapist’s one-paragraph description which is all the information they have to go on.
Now I’m not claiming to be a super-therapist (especially these days when I do much more corporate training and facilitation), and I have sometimes had clients in the past where I eventually ran out of ideas for what to do to help them.
*BUT* I believe the therapist could only be asking this type of question if either
a) they are looking at the problem rather than the person, and believe there are specific techniques which they can always use for each type of problem, or
b) they have a favourite technique which they apply to every client as a matter of course.
Incidentally, I heard that when John Grinder used to have his NLP students work with a ‘guest client’ as part of their assessment, he would have found out their favourite technique, and/or the one they were best at, and told them they could use any intervention *except* that one. I used to think this was a bit harsh (clearly I was looking at it from the student’s short-term point of view) – now I think it’s a great idea that encourages flexibility.
So – and at the risk of telling well-trained NLP practitioners what they should know already – here is the answer I would give to any ‘What should I do with this problem/client?’ type question. It’s the only bit of advice you will ever need for dealing with client problems, if you choose to put it into practice. Please take as read the usual conditions for effective therapy such as maintaining yourself in a positive state, rapport, unconditional positive regard, and having the client’s best interests at heart.
Step 1: elicit their strategy for having the problem – find out how they are doing it, step by step.
Step 2: apply whatever interventions are suggested by the client’s strategy, at the point in the strategy where they will have the most positive effect for the least effort and disruption.
If you have done Step 1 properly, it will be obvious what interventions to use and where to apply them.
I’m not saying this will always be easy. For exceptionally complex or ‘well-defended’ cases, it may take a few sessions before the client is ready to open up enough to allow you to discover the strategy. But it is, in principle, that simple.
What do you think? Leave a comment below…
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