The Usefulness of Admitting Mistakes

Mar 01, 2017

“In music we gain a sense of rhythm through the absence of sound. A similar process occurs in communication between two people.”

Sheldon Roth
American Psychotherapist

The Usefulness of Admitting Mistakes

TISA Description of the Problem: It is surprisingly easy to make a mistake or to miscommunicate with clients. Sometimes we are just flat out wrong. Such awkward moments can sometimes be powerful moments of transformation in both the initial interview and in ongoing therapy, if recognized as opportunities, as opposed to problems, as nicely demonstrated below.

Tip: Admitting a mistake, such as misunderstanding the patient’s feelings or perspective, can sometimes help to establish a stronger alliance. This can be accomplished by asking the patient to work together with you to rectify
your lapse in empathy:

Clinician: Looks like I’ve dug myself in a hole here – Let’s see if we can figure a way to help me climb out.

TISA Follow-up: The above tip is a nice example of “clinician genuineness”, a trait that can often lead to enhanced engagement. For the interested reader, Gerard Egan in his book entitled the Skilled Helper: A Problem-Management and Opportunity Development Approach to Helping, 7th Edition, provides many wonderful insights into topics related to clinician genuineness (Wordsworth Publishing Company, 2001).

Tip provided by:

Carol Watkins, M.D.
Private practice, Baltimore, Maryland

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Of preventing suicide and teaching clinical interviewing