In Consultation

In Consultation

Detoxifying Criticism: How to Help Clients Gain Perspective

By Steve Andreas

March/April 2016

Q: Many of my clients are successful at their jobs, but regardless of how much positive feedback they get about their work, the slightest criticism can send them reeling. What can I do to help them gain perspective?

A: I don’t know anyone who hasn’t experienced this kind of reaction at some time in their lives, but some people experience it daily or hourly. Many don’t even wait for someone else to criticize them: they provide it themselves, making it truly inescapable.

You say that your clients need to “gain perspective.” A surprisingly easy way to do that involves an approach that’s fundamentally different from most therapeutic practice. Because it’s so different, I need to provide a few simple examples to illustrate how it works, before offering a step-by-step case example.

If you think of a disturbing memory, most people experience the inner image as being quite close and large, sometimes so near that it might be described with the common phrase “in your face.” If you move that imagined image to a location that’s 30 feet away, you’ll find that your response to it is much less intense because the image is so much smaller. With a smaller image and a less intense response, you’ll more easily be able to examine it to find out if it has useful feedback information. If you move the image so far away that it’s only a tiny dot on the horizon, you won’t be able to see the content, so you’d have no response to it, but then…

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