Focusing Upon the Client’s Strengths

Mar 06, 2017

“Any path is only a path, and there is no affront, to oneself or to others, in dropping it if that is what your heart tells you . . . Look at every path closely and deliberately. Try it as many times as you think necessary. Then ask yourself, and yourself alone, one question ? Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn’t it is of no use.”

Carlos Castaneda
The Teachings of Don Juan

Focusing Upon the Client’s Strengths

TISA Description of the Problem: Naturally, as clients – whether young or old – first present to a clinician’s office, they are often feeling both vulnerable and a degree of shame that, “It’s come down to this, I need to see a shrink.” The following tip by Beverly Burton, M.A., L.P.C., provides a gentle method of transforming some of this initial hesitancy.

Tip: I find that the following types of questions often help adolescents to feel more at ease with me in the first session:

1) “Tell me about two of your accomplishments.”
2) “Tell me about the last course you got a good grade in or really enjoyed?”

With adults I find the following similar type of question to be quite useful:

1) “Tell me something about your greatest accomplishment.”

TISA Follow-up: I like these tips from Beverly because they emphasize to the client that one is not only interested in the client’s problems but also in the client’s strengths. You can also learn a lot from the client’s answers. If the client cannot generate an answer, it may reflect a significant lack of self esteem, which can point the clinician towards useful interventions. It can also be fascinating to see what the client’s perception of his or her greatest accomplishments may be, providing a window into the clients’s beliefs, standards, and cultural matrix.

Tip provided by:

Beverly Burton, M.A., L.P.C.

Northside Mental Health Center
Tampa, Florida

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