VIDEO: When Our Clients Help Us Overcome Our Greatest Fears

A Therapist Shares Her Most Memorable Clinical Experience

Lynn Lyons

Sometimes our greatest teachers are the most unassuming ones. That's the message from Lynn Lyons, a child therapist specializing in anxiety disorders, and author of Anxious Kids, Anxious Parents: 7 Ways to Stop the Worry Cycle and Raise Courageous and Independent Children.

What would you do if you instructed a client to face their greatest fear, he did so with flying colors, and then asked you to confront yours? That's exactly the predicament Lyons found herself in with her young client, James.

In her presentation, "I'm Funny and I Faint," from the 2017 Networker Symposium evening storytelling event, Lyons shares the heartwarming—and often hilarious—story of how James used a little exposure therapy technique of his own, which helped her walk away from their experience a stronger therapist.

Lynn Lyons, LICSW, specializes in the treatment of anxious families. She’s the coauthor of Anxious Kids, Anxious Parents and Playing with Anxiety: Casey’s Guide for Teens and Kids, and the author of Using Hypnosis with Children: Creating and Delivering Effective Interventions.

As Lyons mentions, being confronted with a challenge by your client isn't always an occasion for turning away from that challenge and refocusing your attention on them. In fact, leaning into the challenge may strengthen the therapeutic alliance between you two and lead to a more robust healing experience.

Anxiety is completely normal, and therapists need to emphasize this, Lyons says in her Networker piece, "Taming the Wild Things." When families "tell me their story," she says, "I usually nod a bit nonchalantly and say in a matter-of-fact voice, 'Yes, I’ve heard that before; lots of families I’ve seen tell me the same things.' My ho-hum response tends to both reassure the child and his parents that their situation isn’t uniquely terrible and model for the parents a way they can lower their own emotional temperature—which is critical for calming their child."


If you work with kids and parents, you might also enjoy Ron Taffel's, "The Decline of Parental Authority," or Martha Straus's, "Being There: Inhabiting the Moment with Traumatized Teens."

Get the latest issue of Psychotherapy Networker

Subscribe for a full year of clinical insight and creative inspiration from the field’s innovators like Brené Brown, Bessel van der Kolk, Dan Siegel, Esther Perel, and many more. Plus, earn 2 CE hours every issue!

Topic: Challenging Clients & Treatment Populations | Children/Adolescents

Tags: Anxiety | anxiety attacks | Children | Children & Adolescents | children in therapy | children/adolescents | exposure therapy | injury | kids | Lynn Lyons | Networker Symposium | overcoming anxiety | panic attack | panic attack symptoms | panic attack treatment | rapport | Symposium | therapeutic alliance

Comments - (existing users please login first)
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

1 Comment

Sunday, February 11, 2018 1:59:15 PM | posted by Marilyn Freedman
Loved your video. What a great example of our humanness. I remember many years ago at a conference, Dr. Rabbi Twersky saying: “ I have a little not in the drawer next to me, that I always remember to look at before seeing a patient” The note says “ remember, the patiet is the one on the other side of the desk” How blessed we are to be able to help patients make such a difference in their lives, and then to have them do that for us.