Ask “What hasn’t changed?

We often think of people feeling depressed or angry about events in their life that are out of the ordinary. However, I have been working with several clients on issues related to areas in their life that don’t seem to change. Those things that continue to be a problem or a hassle for them and they begin to feel helpless to make changes. When I think about it, it’s those difficult and challenging constants that can wear on a person and really cause negative feelings, like anger and frustration, to build up inside.
I often ask a client at some point during the session how things are going and if there is anything new that happened since our last appointment. I was running into a road block with some not sharing much, so, I decided to start asking them what has stayed the same for them lately. Wow, I have been quite pleased with how much we can learn from that simple question.
Here are a few examples of how this worked out:
Me: “So, what’s new since our last session?”
Client: “Nothin”
Me: “Hmm, Ok so let’s talk about what’s not so new. Talk to me about what kinds of things haven’t changed. What is the same?”
Client: “Well, my mom is still nagging me and I’m still deciding to ignore her” (client says with grin on face). “And she still pays attention to my brother all the time…” And the conversation went on from there.
In this first scenario, we identified a pattern with the client and their mother. Recognizing patterns in your life are very powerful when it comes to making changes.
Me: “So, how have things been? We didn’t see each other last week. Are there any updates with your situation?”
Client: “Not really”
Me: “Ok then, tell me about what is the same with you/your situation?”
Client: “Well I’m still playing video games a lot. Oh yea, and someone is still stealing my bike and I have to punch him all the time to get it back.”
In the second scenario, the client was able to share about ongoing bullying they face. This ends up being a key component to their feelings of anger and reasons for their recent behaviors.

As you can see, we were able to get at a lot more by talking about what hasn’t changed

Parents, if you are having a difficult time getting through to your child or adolescent, consider talking to them about those areas of their life that aren’t changing. Consider what may be so persistent in their life that they feel hopeless for change. You may actually hear some really good things as well!

Author: Kim Peterson, MA, LPC-S, RPT

Kim is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Clinical Supervisor, and Registered Play Therapist in Dallas, Texas.

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