Helping patients overcome their fear of change is sometimes an inevitable component of mental health services. Even patients who are desperate for answers can sometimes put up the most resistance to suggestions from their therapist. The reality is, change is a part of progress when it comes to many situations, including mental health. If your patients are struggling to overcome their fear of change, keep reading.
The Importance of Being Open to Change in Therapy:
Being open to change during therapy is an important part of growth. Clients who understand this often have the best and most fruitful experience. Some of the most common reasons that clients might be afraid of change are because they fear the unknown, have had problematic change happen in the past, or maybe see change as instability. Helping your clients overcome their fear of change could be difficult but is ultimately necessary for them to achieve progress in their mental health.
Helping Clients Overcome Their Fear of Change
There is Life in Change
One of the first things a therapist can do to help their client overcome their fear of change is to teach them about other changes in their life. Try identifying other areas where the client might have experienced a change in a positive light. Doing so can help the client see that there really is growth in change.
Clients Have to Want to Change
If a client is not invested in themselves or their own personal growth, they may not want to overcome their fear of change. This is a common issue in therapy and is one of the biggest roadblocks in a therapist-client relationship. If a client does not want to change, then there is not much a therapist can help them do. They have to be invested in their own progress.
You Cannot Force Change
Therapists who want to help their clients overcome their fear of change need to realize that they cannot force it. There is no amount of force or guidance that can make a client change if they do not want to. As a therapist, you need to be willing to let your client function where they are while offering them encouragement toward the direction they want to go in. Ultimately, it is up to the client whether or not they put in the hard work.
Celebrate the Details
Sometimes it is difficult for a client to celebrate what they consider small details. As a therapist, you know that small details can equal big accomplishments. For a client who needs to overcome their fear of change, their provider needs to celebrate every small victory as if the client just ran their first marathon. This helps build confidence in clients who are scared to move forward.
Response Vs Reaction
It is important that as a therapist, you remember to give responses rather than have reactions. Clients trying to overcome their fear of change are already giving themselves a million reasons for why they should not do it. They do not need a poor reaction from their therapist to top it off. Respond with encouragement and constructive criticism when appropriate, but do not solicit your gut reaction if it is not going to help them.
Patience is Everything
Patience is everything when it comes to helping your client overcome their fear of change. This is especially true if you are working with a particularly stubborn individual. If your client is not yet willing to prompt a change in their life, be patient and hope that someday they change their mind. Work with them to understand the benefits of change and after a while, they might become open to it if they feel it will help them. It is also important that therapists do not try to rush change or expect too much too soon. Remember that even small victories are victories and should be celebrated.
Stepping Outside of Our Comfort Zone
A great place to start when helping your client overcome their fear of change is to teach them to step outside of their comfort zone. Depending on the client, this could include a variety of different “homework” assignments to help them become comfortable with new and different things. Helping them overcome their fear of change could be as small as telling them to shop somewhere different than they normally do or as complex as telling someone they are close to about something going on in their life. Make sure when advising this, you only suggest something that the client is open and willing to do and not something that would put them in a harmful environment where progress cannot take place.
Helping your clients overcome their fear of change might not be an easy task, but it is necessary for their progress.