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Alicia_MSW, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 792
Experience:  Specializing in mental health counseling
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I am in a profession where for the most part, I have very pleasant

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I am in a profession where for the most part, I have very pleasant and easy going clients. Once in a blue moon, I have a situation where conflict is involved with my client and other family members. I try to counsel my client to act appropriately and properly, but sometimes out of spite, they choose to act against my advise. This may have negative consequences for my client, but I feel like I can only advise them as best I can and let them know the consequences of their actions if they do not follow the advice. Sometimes those persons that my client has conflict with directs their anger/hostilities on me, if my client shuts herself off from communicating with them. My problem is that I tend to take this anger/hostility personally. I let it cause me to be in a somewhat somber mood all day, as I constantly think about my next interaction with the hostile family member of my client. I dread answering my phone or checking my business emails, as I expect it to be the hostile family member taking out more of their frustrations on me. I know that being in a advisory role, as long as I advise my client appropriately, nothing bad would happen to me, legally or otherwise. But for some reason I keep worrying about the matter. When I try to think logically about the bigger picture, I can put it this matter in perspective to help me see how insignificant it is, especially in relation to other problems in the world. But even though I can make myself see how ridiculous I am being worrying about this, I still start each morning dreading checking my voicemails/emails. Not sure how I can keep focused on keeping this matter in perspective and keep in mind that if I think of this in the bigger picture, I shouldn't worry because no harm would come to me, but only to my client if she acts against my advise. I know its a bigger problem I have of over thinking and being overly worrisome about things.
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Alicia_MSW replied 4 years ago.
Hi there,

I can certainly understand the problem that you are experiencing, and it sounds like you understand that the problem is caused, at least in part, by your tendency to over-think and worry about things - and perhaps become over-involved in your clients' situations. I'm not sure exactly what your job is, but it sounds like you are caring and responsible -- and take a lot of pride in your work. I don't think that it's so unusual to be affected by negative interactions with your clients or their family members, especially if you are hired to act as a type of advisor -- and then they disregard your advice. However, I am wondering if perhaps you identify yourself a bit too much by your work role? It can help to try to develop better boundaries - separating your "personal" self from your "professional" self, especially since it's causing you such distress. It sounds like you are over-identifying with your client, or basing your own value upon whether they follow your advice or not. In the professional counseling field, there's a term called compassionate fatigue, which means basically that you are overstressed from repeatedly having to work with "difficult" clients -- and wanting to offer the best of yourself to your clients and thus becoming over-involved and over-fatigued. You might want to review this publication:
Although it's geared toward professional caregivers, I think the information is also valid for your situation (especially the parts about not becoming over-involved and learning to develop better boundaries.) Let me know if I can offer additional assistance.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Thank you for your thoughful reply. If it helps to provide further advice, I am an attorney and my situation is where I am trying to get my client to do what the law requires him to do to provide paperwork. He tends to drag her feet and stall, and while I advise him appropriately, I get calls from his family members who are angry that he is not being prompt. I explain that I am doing all I can but they try to tak to me like I am the stalling family member and the tone is quite accusatory and mean spirited. Like you suggested, I know I need to be able to step back, not take this personally, and realize that I am doing all I can and it is out of my hands to a certain point. Not sure if I need an exercise or way to keep this kind of thing in a rational and common sense perspective. I know I over react and over think. Anyone I confide in thinks I'm too sensitive and almost ridiculous for worrying about it so much. Any further thoughts would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
Expert:  Alicia_MSW replied 4 years ago.
In any helping profession, it's common to experience these feelings - and it's even more common with certain types of clients (especially with those who tend to "push" our buttons for one reason or another). So I wonder if you tend to experience this frequently in certain types of cases or if there is something specific about this client that is causing you to feel so frenzied. In any case, I think it's a positive sign that you are so concerned and sensitive to your client's best interests - but it can be detrimental in that you can become easily "burned out." That being said, you realize that you can't make them follow your advice - which, I understand, is frustrating. But to allow it to affect you so much is not healthy - and will ultimately make you less productive. I think the main part to focus on is establishing better boundaries with the family members involved in this particular case - can you direct them back to your client, instead of taking the blame, so to speak, for the fact that your client is dragging his feet? Part of dealing with these situations more effectively involves implementing stress management techniques, even basic methods like deep breathing when you feel your anxiety levels start to rise, or taking a step back, reframing the situation - changing your mental self-talk - instead of worrying that you're not doing enough, simply telling yourself that you are doing everything you can. Your client's family obviously feels the pressure of his situation and they are transferring their anxiety on to you - and you are accepting it. So, as difficult as it is, you can refuse (mentally) to accept their anxiety. It sounds a bit like the idea of transference in psychotherapy - clients become angry if the therapist cannot "fix" their problems, and so transfer their own internal anger at themselves onto the therapist. It's something that just takes a bit of practice and disengagement. (Mainly by practicing and maintaining a sense of internal calm and recognizing and refusing to participate in their "drama".) It's not easy - but it can be done :)
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Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Thank you for your follow up reply. I also think a big part of my stress is because admittedly I am a conflict avoider. Thats probably why I chose the field I practice in, as 99% of the time, it is very pleasant and straightforward. So anytime I get a client or matter that deviates from this and involves comlications and conflict. Of course, I end up getting upset at myself for letting this bother me so much. Liek I said, when I step back and think about the bigger picture, I really don't see why I let it get to me and I do have a real sense of peace. But eventually that weighing down feeling creeps back and I dread that the next phone call or email I get is from that irritating family member involved in this matter, complaining about whats taking so long. I know I just need to look at the bigger picture rationally, keep it in persepctive and I will realize, just like anyone else I dicuss this with, that I am worrying for absolutely nothing and I shouldn't waste a second of my time letting it worry me. Like you said, it will only be to the detriment to my health and overall work.
Expert:  Alicia_MSW replied 4 years ago.
Hi again,
It's true that it's always a lot nicer when everything goes with the flow and you don't have to handle conflict situations :) But when conflicts do arise, it's important not to allow them to overtake you to the extent that you're worrying about it so much. It can also be hard because you care about your job and have a sense of integrity, because then you want to give it your all - so if a client doesn't act on your advice, you maybe feel that it's a shortcoming on your end of things. I think you know it's not (a shortcoming) but it still doesn't change the way you feel inherently (and that's understandable!) I think that you really "understand" the "problem" at hand, and understanding it is, of course, the first step toward changing it, but I also know that it's one thing to understand it and another to actually be able to act on it and change the way you think about it when the situation is actually happening. It's a lot harder to keep your cool then, so to speak. I don't know if this is helpful or not, but you might even try mindfulness techniques - there's a good book by Jon Kabat-Zinn called Mindfulness for Beginners (you can get it on Amazon) that teaches the basic principles, if you're not already familiar with them. Mindfulness can help with the stress and anxiety that these particular clients stir up in you (not just this one, but the other 1% of your clients that you eventually will have to deal with too!) I hope that helps :)
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