“I apologize for being late…”: bad behaviors by your counselor

Just skimmed, “‘I apologize for being late’: The courteous psychotherapist” (in the 2008 (v. 45:2)Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, pp 273-277) by Rolfs Pinkerton. Pinkerton details how our bad behaviors can harm (gasp!) the therapeutic alliance but that courteousness and correcting the behavior can help alleviate the problem. No surprise here.

But wait, what are some of the bad behaviors (no not the really bad and really obvious ones) he’s concerned about. Let’s see how we rate:

1. Being more than 15 minutes late. Apologies help but if it is a regular problem then…

Hmm. I’m usually 5 minutes late. Does that count as bad?

2. Falling asleep or being obviously worn out.

I try to solve this by drinking caffeine.

3. Forgetting names, using the wrong one or the wrong pronunciation.

So, when I pray for my “brother” or “sister” is it obvious that I’ve forgotten their name? Actually, I do pray that way sometimes and I haven’t forgotten a thing.

4. Repeatedly checking the clock.

I have an internal clock and so I try not to ever look. Probably why I’m regularly 10 minutes behind by the end of the day. So, how much is too much?

5. Taking calls.

Never do that. But I have forgotten to silence the phone. I hate it when that happens.

6. Drinking or eating in front of the client without offering some.

Oops. Did I mention that I caffeinate? Didn’t think that was rude. Hmmm. I have clients coming in bringing their Starbucks and I never feel left out. I wouldn’t eat in front of them. Do I get partial credit?

How about you? If you are a counselor, what are your faux pas? If you ever were a client, what annoying (not illegal or immoral ones–those are pretty clear) habits irk/irked you? (Be gentle with us and be sure to protect the guilty. We’re rather fragile.)


Filed under christian counseling, christian psychology, counseling, counseling skills, Psychology, Relationships, teaching counseling

8 responses to ““I apologize for being late…”: bad behaviors by your counselor

  1. Scott Knapp, MS

    I have dual roles in our agency. I am a therapist, and I also take care of some administrative duties for our Director. I tend to get calls during the morning hours from our administrative office, and they seem to always fall just before, or right during, the scheduled session with one particular boy at our center. At first he was accommodating when I’d break off our session to take a call, and he was understanding when I’d come get him for therapy as much as 2 hours late, excusing myself with what became almost a mantra “I was called into a meeting.” Finally he’d had enough, and he confronted me about the issue in a group therapy session I co-led, with him and several other boys who share a particular issue. I was stunned…but instantly those Proverbs about wise men accepting rebuke and instruction flooded my mind, and I was able to grapple with the rebuke and apologize to him in front of all. He had me dead to rites! I wasn’t late again, and if I had to reschedule, I made sure I spoke to him about it well ahead of time. As for eating or drinking in front of clients, I keep my office refrigerator well-stocked with cold bottles of Dasani at all times…my clients know they have permission to just go right to the fridge and pull a bottle at the start of the session…an incentive to come to session for most!

  2. Years ago saw a counselor, and eventually all of her “bad” habits drove me out of therapy. Talking too much about herself, consistently running anywhere from fifteen to thirty minutes late, eating dinner almost every week during our session (nothing like sharing your deepest, darkest secrets with someone scarfing down a Big Mac).

    I’ve only recently gone back to therapy over a decade later, and the differences are like night and day.

    The new guy is prompt (I don’t even think of five minutes as being “late” — I’ve waited over an hour at the doctor’s office!), courteous, and he listens.

    We joke about our drinks — my iced latte I pick up on the way, his 7-11 soda — but neither of us are falling asleep, so that’s good!

  3. Amy

    I think falling asleep would drive me out of the office…pronto! I mean, really!

  4. Mark O

    Being a counseling grad intern for only a month, I’m still very conscious of everything about myself, particularly my body language. I don’t even drink coffee in session unless I’m dead tired…but at times I do notice that my eyes have a hard time focusing and I bet if I had more sessions back to back I’d be struggling with trying not to fall asleep.

    Speaking of that, a pastor I used to see would often fall asleep. It was always right after lunch and he had the most comfortable couches. I started to talk to him and I’d see his eyes start to lose focus. Within 2 or 3 minutes I’d see him nodding and then waking up. Oddly enough, niether of us acknowledged it. (I’ve gotten better at talking about these things since)

  5. Only grievous error I can think of is drinking water in front of clients. It was my transitional object in my internship. But while in therapy my counselor had a fridge and usually offered water.

  6. Jen

    I’m on the other side of the comfy seat. And I’m the one who’s often late. I always apologize. I figure I don’t need to apologize to the receptionist, but I do to the psychol. Still, my time isn’t extended, so do I need to apologize after all?

    Once, after a traumatic relationship breakup, I saw a psychiatrist (it was cheaper than a psychologist, but less useful, I found). I thought it unhelpful, to say the least, when she told me about her son (and her brother), both single, and said wouldn’t it be fun if I married her son then we could go shopping together… Hmm. Not helpful for a patient who wants to get married and had just got out of a negative relationship. Uhuh.

    I don’t mind if the therapist drinks water or coffee or whatever. Sometimes I take chocolate for us to eat. Other than that, eating would be off-putting. Taking calls unacceptable unless it’s life and death. Falling asleep – absolutely not! It’s my time, I’m paying for it!

  7. lolly

    falling asleep is a really bad one or ignoring what was said and saying oh ok sounds like you’re doing better!

  8. I could handle it if they being late, eating drinking thing was my issue with my ex-counselor. Unfortunately our problems were MUCH bigger. And when I confronted her about them she basically said everything except I. AM. SORRY.

    Those 3 little words would have helped a lot.

    So, any ideas? Do you counselor types every apologize if you are actually in the wrong? Or does that go against the profession?

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