Is Resistance Dead...

Or Have the Rumors Been Exaggerated?

With all the recent developments in research, theory, and practice, we have more treatment options to choose from than ever before. Why then do so many practitioners still find client “resistance” a regular companion in their consulting rooms?

In 1984, after it was rejected by several mainstream journals, the late Steve de Shazer, a pioneering brief therapist and an acerbic critic of therapeutic orthodoxy, published a now-legendary article titled "The Death of Resistance," declaring that psychotherapy had entered a new era. Rather than an objective phenomenon, de Shazer proclaimed that "resistance"—clients' seemingly illogical attempt to thwart the well-intentioned efforts of their therapists—in fact, existed only in the eye of the therapist-beholder. According to him, psychotherapy was moving into a more enlightened age of more effective treatment in which the concept of resistance would become obsolete.

So why then, if de Shazer was right, are you still struggling with so many of your cases three decades later?

If you’re like most clinicians today, you have a toolbox crammed with even more therapeutic theories and techniques than de Shazer could have imagined. You can guide your clients in reframing their life story, enhance their experience of being intensely in the moment, reprocess their past traumas, time travel with them to redesign their future, locate and tend to their abused inner child, tap their body at strategic points—all of which,…

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Monday, May 20, 2013 7:46:44 AM | posted by Plamen Panayotov
Hi, Clifton,
Thank you very much indeed for this very interesting and useful thread.
Right now me and my friend and colleague Boyan Strahilov are trying to shape a brief text on 'From the Death of Resistance to the Birth of Assistance'.
As in psychiatric treatment, where many patients resist their medical treatment, it takes one step to go from 'resistance' 'compliance', and yet another one from there to 'adherence'.
As we see it now, resistance is mostly connected to untimeliness.
Each and every question we ask the client can be on time, which results in assistance from her; or out of time, which provokes resistance.
So, the main question for a therapist becomes: How can I fit myself to the time of this client now?
One possible answer to this you can see here:
Hoping we all can be on time some day,

Monday, May 20, 2013 12:52:43 PM | posted by Eugene Usner
Excellent article on resistence. This article should be required reading for all therapists. Using all our listening skills and realizing that we cannot "fix" anyone is crucial. As you stated "slowing the pace" " getting more details" and establishing goals is paramount to successful therapy. Thanks again sharing you knowledge regarding resistence.

Saturday, May 25, 2013 4:16:53 PM | posted by James Lein
The Eugene Gendlin interview you carried a while back fits well with this article. As I recall, he continually invites clients to correct his comments or interpretations, keeping the exchange at the client's pace. It is of course client-centered more so than therapist-centered.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013 2:19:32 PM | posted by Eugene Usner
Excellent article and subject. As a Social Worker, the basic tenent of the therapeutic relationship has always involved focusing on "where the client is". You have sucinctly stated and give exambles that resistence is produced by the therapist for not really listening to the client. The therapeutic journey does involve focusing on our client's goals..not ours or an referring agency. A great deal of education needs to be disiminated to the public regarding our abillity to "fix" our clients. Thanks for a clear understanding of client resistence.