Questions Drawing Out Strengths with Difficult Clients
1. What are some questions that you might use as part of the interview to acquire John’s worldview and bring out his strengths and weaknesses? There are two types of questions that would be essential to most theories and styles of counseling/therapy, open and closed questions. Open questions are those that cannot be answered in a few words. They are more extensive and encourage clients to talk more in order to provide maximum information. Open questions usually begin with what, how, why, or could. Closed questions can be answered in very few words and can help obtain specifics. It helps provide critical information, but the flow of the interview relies heavily on the therapist. Closed questions usually begin with is, are, or do. In order to acquire John’s worldview and bring out his strengths and weaknesses, I would have to use both forms of questions. After I build an alliance with John, I will try to inquire about John’s worldview by asking him what his cultural background is. If it is similar to mine, I may be able to use questions freely. However if his background differs from mine, it would prove to be a bit more difficult but not impossible. For example if I ask John, “what is your ethnic background?” and he identifies as African American I would not make assumptions, learn about his culture from other sources, admit ignorance, look for similarities, and be sensitive to his expectations and needs. Clients sometimes have difficulty discussing their strengths and weaknesses. I can begin to identify John’s strengths/weaknesses by examining his feelings, ability of knowledge and skills, and actual performance. Some questions I can ask are: “what are your hopes/dreams?”, “what are you passionate about?”, “what do you do well?”, “do you adapt to change quickly?”, “what do other people look to you for?”, “what would you consider are your strengths and weaknesses?”, and “what can you do to make a difference?” By learning about John’s strengths, I can also learn about his weaknesses and manage those that can sabotage his strengths. 2. What ideal question might be constructed so that he could best share his “life story”? Based on the scenario, John was ordered by the court for a psychiatric and psychological evaluation. Initially he would not be open nor want to talk with me freely especially about something so delicate such as his “life story”. My first step would be to build trust at his pace. One of the main issues with hesitant clients is trust. Trust building needs to come first. My own openness and social skills are necessary. In class, we learned a couple of key components such as: extensive questioning too early can make trust building a slow process and if the client is required to meet with a therapist or is culturally different, he or she may be less willing to talk. Thus since John is required to speak with me, he may be less willing to speak. Here are many ways to build trust between John and I: Confidentiality!!!
Be honest- always be honest especially when no one is looking. Respect John- treat John with the same respect I would expect from others. I would also respect their time by never being late. Sincerely care- when I truly care about John, it is hard not to trust me. Have John’s best interests in mind- John would know I am looking out for him and can differentiate from when I am looking out for myself. It would be hard to trust me when there is a conflict of interests. Paraphrase what was said- I would give information back to John in my own words as a great way to show I was listening and to demonstrate my understanding. Take whatever is being said seriously- I will not dismiss John’s problem as being small or counter it with the size of my own problems. Whatever he may be going through is real and serious for him and I should treat it as such. Make John feel significant- it is a basic human need; I will be sincere when...
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