It is relatively common for a therapist to encounter a client that needs to overcome their fear of change. Change can be difficult, especially if a client has spent their life settled in one particular spot or way of living. The job of the therapist is to help their client overcome their fear of change and guide them through positive actions that lead to improved mental health and well-being. This is possible through the use of evidence-based interventions and thoughtful dialogue but it is not always easy.
Therapy and Self-Change
When a client is not willing to change, there could be a number of reasons. But self-change is ingrained in the purpose of therapy and why people seek the help of a mental health provider. It is vital to the therapeutic process. For many clients, overcoming their fear of change is the only way they will start to see positive results.
What does this mean? It means that before anything else can come out of the work a client is doing in therapy, they first have to overcome their fear of change.
The issue is that some clients think that therapists are capable of doing all the hard work for them. The cliche that rings true in this situation is that no one can do the work for them, they have to want to do it themselves.
What Does it Mean to Be Open to Change?
Being open to change means giving up one’s resistance to it. When a person is comfortable (and comfortable does not mean happy or thriving), a natural instinct to have is to resist that discomfort.
Why Might a Client be Afraid of Change?
The reason why a client might not want to or is resistant toward overcoming their fear of change differs from person to person. Some of those reasons include the following.
- A Bad Experience with Change
One of the most common reasons someone might not want to overcome their fear of change is that they had a bad experience with change in the past. Maybe there was a difficult change that occurred in their childhood that has stayed with them their entire life.
- They Have Never Been Asked to Change
It might seem strange, but some individuals have never been confronted with the idea of personal or psychological change. They may have encountered small change that occurs in day to day life, but changing your actions, your situation, your thought patterns, or behavior can be much more difficult if you have never had to do it.
- Change Makes them Feel Vulnerable
Oftentimes, even if an individual is not happy in their situation, they are comfortable there. Comfort sometimes has less to do with how we feel and more to do with how long we have been in a situation. Leaving that situation or changing something can remove the comfort someone might have and make them feel vulnerable.
Techniques for Helping Your Client Overcome their Fear of Change:
- Set Expectations
Adjustment takes time, change is a process, and nothing happens instantly. Change can cause anxiety in some clients when they feel like life as they know it will be ripped out from under them when it happens, even if it is for the best. Teaching a client to overcome their fear of change by setting expectations and letting them know they can take all the time they need is a great way to ease that anxiety.
- Teach the Value of Change
The value of change is that it can open up opportunities for happiness, contentedness, and quality mental health. It can be hard for a client to understand that when they cannot see the future. As their therapist, work to teach them the value of change and explore how the change will benefit their life.
- Set Goals
While managing expectations and teaching the value of personal and psychological change, help your clients set goals for their future and what they hope to accomplish. This is a common thing to do in therapy. If your client is struggling to overcome their fear of change, their provider might start with small goals or small adjustments that eventually lead to substantial change.
It is natural for clients to have a fear of change. It can be intimidating and scary, especially if it takes a client out of their comfort zone.
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