Another Approach for the “I Don’t Know” Answer

Mar 01, 2017

“The more materialistic science becomes, the more angels I shall paint.”

Edward Burne-Jones
Pre-Raphaelite Painter
Victorian Era

Another Approach for the “I Don’t Know” Answer

TISA Description of the Problem: In our June of 2000 Tip of the Month we addressed the difficulties that arise when clients repeatedly answer our questions with, “I don’t know.” Although common with adolescent clients, this dilemma can appear across all age groups. The following tip takes a novel approach to transforming this problem.

Tip: If the client answers your question with, “I don’t know” the following question may be of value:
Clinician: If you did know the answer to that question, what do you think it would be?

Result: If the above question is asked with a gentle and genuine curiosity, the provider of our tip reports being repeatedly pleased with how this strategy works with children, adolescents, and adults.

TISA Follow-up:

Tip provided by:

Valerie Cordiano, West Hartford, Connecticut

TISA is a site dedicated to advancing the science and art
Of preventing suicide and teaching clinical interviewing