Cowan and Presbury talks about the attitude of some clients in counseling sessions that is sometimes seen as a deterrence to successful clinical treatment (Cowan & Presbury, 2000). One such attitude is client resistance, which has been the subject of much research dating back to the time of Sigmund Freud. Resistance is characterized by a client’s lack of willingness to give personal input in a counseling session (Cowan & Presbury, 2000). The traditional view of client resistance, which can be attributed to Freud, treats resistance as a block towards a person’s knowledge of himself (Cowan & Presbury, 2000). On the other hand, another view of resistance is that of a personal way of preserving one’s personal freedom (Cowan & Presbury, 2000). Thus, this second view is called by others, not as resistance, but reactance (Cowan & Presbury, 2000).
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The article further explains different means of dealing with client resistance, which counselors could use to break through the perceived barrier (Cowan & Presbury, 2000). For example, sustained empathy, self-knowledge, and tolerance for ambiguities are found as essential towards reaching out to the client and achieving success at the end of a counseling session (Cowan & Presbury, 2000).
Reading this article has made me remember one specific instance in my life where I faced the challenge of developing rapport with a fellow worker. I know that it is important in any environment to form an emotional relationship with one’s company, in order to make their encounters not only bearable, but enjoyable.
However, such experience came as a surprise for me because my fellow worker brushed me off and made me understand that she was not interested in my overtures. I did not understand the possible reason for such a reaction, because as new colleagues, I could not imagine any reason why she would dislike me.
When I reflect upon such occurrence, I realize that she was only doing some sort of resistance because she sees me as a person who tries to penetrate into her personal space. Although I have no such intention and I only want to build rapport, I understand that I must respect her feelings and try to understand where she is coming from. It is possible that her resistance springs from a past traumatic experience, and it might be difficult for her to open up to strangers or new acquaintances.
Therefore, it is important that I incorporate some ethical principles into my actions and attitudes when trying to reach out to new acquaintances. One such important ethical principle is the appreciation of other people as equals and as rational beings. Such ethical principle would lead me to respect other people’s feelings and dispositions, such as the feelings of my fellow worker that she displayed when I tried to befriend her. Furthermore, this ethical principle is a reflection of the above-discussed article, which views resistance as a form of self-preservation, and not a mere deterrence to communication. Therefore, I must adapt the best possible means of reaching out to a person without necessarily posing as a threat to her personal space.
Cowan, E. W. & Presbury, J. (2000). Meeting Client Resistance and Reactance with Reverence. Journal of Counseling and Development 78(4), 411-419.