100 Helping Individuals, Families, and Groups with Stressful Life Transitions students may be reluctant to employ. We note in the chapter that exploring ambivalence is a sophisticated and caring form of empathy—the worker reaches for and puts into words clients’ feelings about their work together. Workers also engage in empathy when they point out discrepant messages and pursue sup- pressed feelings. Other exploring and clarifying skills foster greater self-understanding. These include pointing out patterns, suggesting hypotheses, providing behav- ioral feedback, and inviting self-reflection. Because workers’ observations are tentative, clients must be invited to share their feedback with a question such as, “What do you think about what I just said?” Motivating skills often are needed to help clients identify and build upon their strengths. Using solution-focused questions like asking about exceptions, workers can help clients see strengths they possess that they did not know they had. Offering hope and reassurance can be highly energizing to clients. However, students may need help in seeing the distinction between offering reassurance that is realistic, and therefore helpful, and offering empty words of comfort out of a desire to make their clients feel better. When using guiding skills, the worker is more direct in sharing professional observations and insights. Clients often need their worker to provide relevant information to counter their distorted views of self and others. Many students have told us that they were told they should never offer their clients advice or suggestions. We disagree. We understand and point out to students in the chap- ter that they must be careful when sharing their opinions, since this can readily lead to being in the world of should rather than is. However, clients can benefit from the worker’s opinions, and research suggests that they want this sort of guidance. What is essential is that workers clarify that what they are offering is but one point of view, that there are others, and that the clients’ job is to decide the best course of action for themselves. A range of activities can also provide guidance to clients. Role-plays, home- work assignments, and specifying tasks bridge the gap between clients’ ses- sions with the worker and their social environment. Skills that foster either the expression or containment of feelings help clients develop more control over their feelings and promote empowerment. Facilitating skills directly address clients’ ambivalence about making changes. This includes pointing out avoidance patterns and discrepant messages and challenging the appearance of commitment. We suggest that students must learn to be “sensitively direct,” conveying to clients that behind the demand for work is the students’ caring and concern for the clients’ well-being and belief that change is possible. Examples in the chapter underscore the importance of the need for workers to “avoid avoidance.” Workers also may need to generate anxiety and create discomfort in clients as a way of encouraging them to take action, address the challenges they face, or both.
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