I have sat in my fair share of workshops over the decades, and noticed something. Some, not all, workshop presenters make a mistake when they try to sell their audience simple answers.
In this day and age of complex addiction counseling, simple answers just will not do. For instance, a presenter spends hours explaining a subject be it dual disorders, Motivational Interviewing or whatever is the latest, greatest addiction treatment gadget. Then someone in the audience raises his/her hand, and asks the ever-infamous question, “What would you do with a client who is (fill in some client troublesome noun e.g., borderline, resistant, etc.)?” And then, the presenter quips a simple response.
Now come on! Is the presenter, or any presenter, really going to give you a truly adequate response to such a question? The presenter doesn’t know your client from Adam. Furthermore, the one who asked that question has probably shared about a 30-second client history. And based on that 30-second synopsis, a presenter is supposed to come with some sort of “fix.” Come on!
I know workshop participants want tangible take home answers. But, in order to obtain those recommendations, participants really need to provide a good summary of what exactly they are asking. A good client summary may well reside in the 5 to 8 minute range. It includes the current level of pathology, history and duration of that pathology, client traits, a short report of client development, the past and present client treatment record, and most importantly how stable is the present professional relationship. Lay all that out to a presenter, then ask him/her what they would suggest.
The point is no one can give adequate counseling suggestions with only limited seconds of client information. No one!
Now the real onus of this issue lies with the presenter. He/she should not be dispensing simple answers for the type of multifaceted problems you and I face each and everyday. They just can’t do it. And if they do, maybe they are trying to sell you something or just impress you. If they are trying to do either, ask for your money back.
If you fall prey for the simple answers, you are gullible, naïve, and easy to fleece. Why? Because you want simple answers to complicated treatment problems in addiction counseling, and such animals don’t exist. All of our treatment problems require thought, and a lot of it.
So from now on, pay attention to other workshop participants who ask the infamous question. If given a simple response after a 30-second or so client summary, you should be wary.
However, if a presenter asks the participant something like, “tell me more,” you may be able to put a little more confidence in this presenter. Why? In all likelihood you have a thoughtful professional who is rightly asking for more information. Moreover, that presenter is hopefully trying to make the participants think by asking for additional information.
Now for all workshop presenters reading this be sure to reply to a 30-second client summation and infamous question with, “tell me more.” Get more data, and encourage the audience to think as they give you more information.
In the end, clients get much better treatment with counselors who have better info and are using their brain.