In Consultation

In Consultation

Priming Clients for Taking New Practices Home

By Donald Altman

March/April 2018

Q: I have many practices to pass on to my clients that will help them outside of therapy, but it’s often hard to engage them in these practices in a lasting way, even when I give them handouts to take home. What can I do?

A: Every clinician has experienced illuminating moments in a session when the haze of cloudy, dull thinking gives way to the bright light of clarity and certainty. Let me explain with a real-life example. It had been only a week since I’d demonstrated a physical grounding practice to my client Joanna. The practice, which I call Palming the Present Moment, is a simple mindfulness technique for bringing one’s awareness to the present moment and turning it away from negativity, stress, anxiety, and even trauma. It involves bringing the palms together very slowly, doing progressive muscle relaxation, and visualization with the breath. In our last session, Joanna had been quite receptive to this practice. But when I asked her if she’d used it during the week, her brow furrowed, and a confused expression spread across her face. “I didn’t really use it,” she replied somewhat evasively.

“Interesting. Help me understand why,” I said.

“Well, I guess I didn’t exactly remember it,” she answered with a shrug.

Now it was me with the furrowed brow. Had I not taught the method properly? Had I rushed through it? It seemed so simple and straightforward. I decided we’d try it again together. Afterward, I…

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