Validating your client’s distrust of you

Ever had a person tell you they can’t trust you when you know they can? What was your response? if you are like most people, you notice the tendency to want to defend yourself. No, really, you can trust me. Why don’t you give me a chance? Or maybe your response isn’t one to beg but to back away and treat the person with a cool demeanor.

What should counselors do when a client doesn’t or won’t trust their intentions or motivations?Janina Fisher (see previous post) reminds us that the right responses is…acceptance validation. Especially with clients who experienced invalidation in violence and abuse. Notice that the effort to press a client to trust you or distancing from them sends the exact same message: your feelings and experiences are wrong and something to be rejected. Not surprisingly, clients feel invalidated once again.

What does validation look like?

You are right. You don’t know if you can trust me. Trusting important people meant that you got hurt in the past. So, not trusting me is understandable. So…what should we do? Validation doesn’t mean that we agree with whatever our clients say but that we find the truth and we underline it. Further, it means that we give the power back to our clients since many of them experienced being controlled.

Too often we think we know what is best for our clients and we try to indoctrinate them to our wisdom. Even when we are right, our efforts may unwittingly re-enact the stealing of power to set proper boundaries. Even when our clients want us to convince them that we are okay and worthy of trust, we ought to be careful. In everyday life we have to trust others, live with the possibility that our trust may be violated…and that we will need to respond to such violations with grace and truth. Promises to always be trustworthy perpetuate the myth that protection from all pain is possible in this life.


Filed under christian counseling, counseling science, counseling skills, Psychology, Uncategorized

4 responses to “Validating your client’s distrust of you

  1. Angel

    I absolutely love opening my email to find new posts! Thanks so much for keeping up with this. It’s very informative! 🙂

    Keep it up!

  2. Tina

    Counselors need to understand that the subject of trust will be revisited over and over and over on the part of the client. The counselor need not fear it is about them, it is the nature of the beast in the life of the client who never learned to trust. Yet, the improper response from the therapist will shut down the client’s willingness to express their struggle with trust and halt true forward progress in the issues the clients desires help. When I was was told, “well, we do not have a trusting relationship,” I did not feel understood, accepted, felt I now needed to care for the therapist and felt a barrier in our relationship over something difficult for me to express. I KNOW that was not the intent of the therapist, but it still hurt.

  3. I was reading an article on building therapeutic relationship and it said that in addition to empathy, one skill was to allow the client to have negative feelings toward you and themselves and that really struck me.

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