Mental Health Professionals: Have You Ever Felt Guilty For Getting Angry With Your Patients?

Being a mental health professional is a very demanding job in many ways.

We are to always be ‘present’ with our patients and clients.

We are to refrain from showing any signs of negative emotions toward our patients and clients.

We are to be as positive as possible, remaining fully engaged in what the person is saying who is sitting across from us.

However, there is only one problem with that fantasy and that is that never demonstrating to our clients how they are coming across is denying them the ability to understand how their behavior is negatively affecting their relationships.

To tell you the truth, I have a different paradigm of healing with my clients and anger does indeed play a part in it — on many different levels.

One of the considerations that conventional therapy never takes into consideration is that of how ‘respect’ is built with a patient based on building rapport. Because rapport is built in different ways with different patients.

If I have a client who is yelling in my face about whatever is running around in their mind, the best way to meet them where they are at is to yell back at them emulating their vocal level and then to quickly bring my voice down to a much slower pace and quieter volume. This is a basic technique that is used in neuro-linguistic programming to help a client to calm down — with the practitioner in control of the situation.

There are also times when clients are just unable to stop talking in the circles of ‘victimization’ which are destructive to their mental health. I have had several clients who have this issue of rehashing all the terrible things that a particular person has done to them, over and over again in the same session, unable to let it go.

I admit to getting in the client’s face and telling them very loudly that they need to stop talking, NOW!

When that does not happen I will let them know that I will end the session because there is no use in continuing on the same old story — a story that is of no use to them in the healing process… and I have indeed ended sessions in such a fashion.

I do follow-up with an email with their homework and an explanation why it was pointless to continue the session at that moment in time.

The amazing thing is that these patients actually respect the fact that they were stopped from going on in a self-destructive to them mode.

There are indeed practical ways that we can use the ‘anger’ response as a ‘pattern interrupt as it is known in the world of neuro-linguistic programming to help your patients to stop doing those unhealthy habits that they are so used to. To get them to think much deeper about what they are doing and how it is unhelpful to their goals in the healing process.

To hold our patients accountable for their self-destructive behaviors is a very useful activity for those patients that require it. Though at times our patients may not like the response they receive, they will respect it for what it was if you have the relationship built on respect for you as the expert. After all, it was they who hired you, right?

Therapy is NOT all about sweet kind and caring gestures where the patient is never forced to look at what they are doing.

We need to be cognizant of why their behavior is causing the challenges that brought them to employ you.

Therapy is all about helping your patients better understand how they are coming across and teaching them how to create safe emotional boundaries by reframing how they think and feel about past experiences. This will allow them to have much more healthy relationships moving forward. And, sometimes a ‘pattern interrupt is just the thing they require to get past the old harmful behaviors.

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Suzanne Kellner-Zinck

Hypnotism is Suzanne’s profession, specializing in working with kids and those with eating disorders and sex addiction.