Updated: Jan 6
What Is Resistance?
A man who has gone to the dentist because of an unbearable toothache will nevertheless try to hold the dentist back when he approaches the sick tooth with pair of forceps. - Sigmund Freud
Resistance will be the unconscious mind's way of endeavouring to avoid having to deal with the aftermath of the clients traumatic experience in life. Every client, without exception, will undergo some form of resistance to the therapeutic process. It may sometimes be difficult for the therapist to comprehend the reasons why a client may elect to undergo therapy and be so desperate to gain relief from his/her crippling symptoms, and yet will still fight like hell in order to resist the process. Once the therapist has been apprised of this mysterious phenomenon, however, he/she can then arm himself/herself with the ammunition with which to dissolve it (Morison.J, 2011).
How Does Resistance Manifest Itself?
'I'm sorry I'm late', 'I can't afford Therapy', 'My mind is blank', 'It's not working for me', 'I don't need therapy', 'Your'e not the right therapist'; being oppositional, reactionary, non-compliant, intractable, and unmotivated; these are all (perfectly normal) behaviours collectively known by Therapists as 'resistance'.
Why Do We Resist Help?
Clients may be resistant to the therapeutic process because they have feelings of shame.
There also may be a misalignment of goals. Therapists try to move their clients towards an acceptance of responsibility, while clients may be more inclined to strive for evasion of responsibility (King, 1992). Clients simply may not be ready to move where their Therapist is taking them. Some clients may be resistant because there is a purpose for their symptoms. The benefits of maintaining their dysfunctional beliefs or behaviours far outweigh the benefits of overcoming them. These clients may enjoy the support and attention they receive by having a mental health condition and may be hesitant to lose the associated benefits. In some cases clients may be resistant to change because change in and of itself is a frightening prospect. As human beings we are creatures of habit, and asking someone to change may lead to the development of resistant behaviours as a productive measure.
Sometimes resistance is fuelled by sources outside of the Therapist/Client relationship; individuals in the client’s social circle may find it advantageous to foster the client’s current presenting problem to promote their own gains, they may foster a sense of dependency, which manifests itself in the client’s refusal to explore or change their current thoughts or behaviours.
How We Can Work With Resistance in Therapy?
Recognising and accurately understanding client resistance are important factors in creating an environment conducive to client change. Often the processing of a client’s resistant behaviour becomes a major breakthrough in the therapeutic process. Clients begin to see that their defensiveness is simply preventing the Therapist from helping them become mentally healthy; through the recognition of various forms of client resistance, the understanding of the Therapists role in perpetuating resistance, and the working knowledge of various Therapeutic interventions,
Through the client/Therapist relationship, a therapeutic environment can be created that is inviting to the client, and suitable for processing and working through resistance.
If you're ready to begin your journey with Psychotherapy book your free initial telephone consultation here
Eve Houseman MBACP