Ten Tips for Organisational Therapists
There are many different schools of psychotherapy, and many of those transferrable to organisational psychotherapy. I have a great fondness for the approach of Carl Rogers (person-centred, or client-centred therapy). From that perspective, here’s ten top tips:
- Set clear boundaries. For example, regarding confidentiality, voluntary participation, etc. . You may also want to explicitly rule out or rule in certain topics of conversation.
- The client knows best. The client organisation is the expert on its own difficulties. It’s better to let the client explain what is wrong. Never fall into the trap of telling them what their problem is or how they should solve it.
- Act as a sounding board. One useful technique is to listen carefully to what the client organisation is saying and then try to explain what you think the organisation is telling you, in your own words. This can not only help you clarify the client’s point of view, it can also help the client understand its collective self (its feelings, etc.) better and begin to look for a constructive way forward.
- Don’t be judgmental. Often, organisations may feel that their specific problems mean that they fall short of the ‘ideal’. They may need to feel reassured that they will be accepted by you for how they are and won’t face your rejection or disapproval.
- Don’t make decisions for them. Remember, advice is a dangerous gift. Also, some clients will not want to take responsibility for making their own decisions. They may need to be reminded that nobody else can or should be allowed to choose for them. Of course you can still help them explore the consequences of the options open to them.
- Concentrate on what they are really saying. Sometimes this will not be clear at the outset. Often an organisation will not reveal what is really bothering it until it feels sure of you. Listen carefully – the problem you are initially presented with may not be the real problem at all.
- Be genuine. If you simply present yourself in your official role the client organisation is unlikely to want to reveal intimate details about itself. This may mean disclosing things about yourself – not necessarily facts, but feelings as well. Don’t be afraid to do this – bearing in mind that you are under no obligation to disclose anything you do not want to.
- Accept negative emotions. Client organisations may have negative feelings about themselves, their customers or even you. Try to work through their aggression without taking offence, but do not tolerate personal abuse.
- How you speak can be more important than what you say. It is possible to convey a great deal through your tone of voice the implications behind the words you choose. Often it may be helpful to slow down the pace of the conversation or engagement. Short pauses where those involved (including you) have time to reflect on the direction of the conversation or engagement can also be useful.
- I may not be the best person to help. Knowing yourself and your own limitations can be just as important as understanding the client’s point of view. No client-centred counsellor succeeds all the time. Sometimes you will be able to help but you will never know. Remember the purpose of counselling is not to make you feel good about yourself.