This dynamic (see last post) is familiar enough in the context of bereavement but the same unhelpful dynamics can be at work in all kinds of circumstances. It comes into play whenever we are foolish enough to think that we can see the right solution for our client more clearly than they can. This in a way becomes more of an issue the more experienced, knowledgeable and perceptive we become – we are increasingly likely to see ‘the right answer’ for our clients and be more frustrated when they can’t see what is so obvious to us. Janet Mattinson at the Institute of Marital Studies used to say that she was fortunate to be a slow thinker – meaning that this reduced the tendency for her to get ahead of her clients and so put her answers in the way of them finding their own answers. It may also be why I have heard it said that student social workers are the most effective social workers – they in a way expect to be bewildered with their clients, ‘in a mess’ with them without answers and with only enthusiasm and hope to offer.
The problem of seeing the answer