Something that’s been coming up a lot recently in my events is people asking about “why” or even “how” we do this desired outcome part in the session to start off the session. And people are concerned. Somebody asked me recently, “Well, what if the client feels dismissed because they want to talk about the problem?” So I want to talk specifically about why we do this, and how we do this, and what to do when it’s hard for the client.

So why we do it is because clients don’t come to therapy because they have problems. They come to therapy because they want something. So we start our sessions by asking, “What is it that you want to achieve?” Now, I want to be very specific. I’m not asking, “What do you want to talk about in session?” I’m asking, “What do you want the outcome to be from you being in session?”

And how we do it is by overtly asking, “What are your biggest hopes? What are your very best hopes from therapy?” I’m not asking, “What do you wanna talk about?” I’m not asking, “What brought you here?” I’m asking, “What is that thing you want most as a transformation in your life from being in the therapy?”

But, the part I really want to talk to you about is… when it’s hard for the client, stick to it. As a matter of fact, I want you to anticipate it’s gonna be hard for the client, because they didn’t expect you to ask about outcome. They expected you to ask about problems. So thus they’re unprepared to answer this question. And remember, you’re asking people about the outcome they want to achieve. You’re asking about their hopes, their wishes… in fact, their dreams.

Talking about the things we want is very, very hard. And the reason it’s very hard is because when most of us talk about what we want, the world prepares us for disappointment by talking to us as if we shouldn’t have those wants. Think about if you’re someone who’s been struggling with an addiction, like maybe you’ve been drinking a lot throughout your life, and you say to someone, “I wanna stop drinking.” Your friends are likely gonna say, “You? You can’t stop drinking. You’ve been drinking since you were in high school.” And you feel put down. You feel let down. You feel unbelieved in. So when you come to therapy and someone says, “What are your best hopes?”, they’re not super excitedly gonna tell you, “I wanna stop drinking and stop using drugs.” They’re so used to people putting them down and squashing and squelching their dreams that they’re not easily gonna get excited and jump on board with you asking this question. So stick with it. You might be the very first person that’s ever believed in them enough to hang in there. Because once they identify their outcome, say it out loud and start moving their life towards their outcome, that’s really when the magic happens from therapy.

So that’s “why” we ask the desired outcome. That’s “how” we ask the desired outcome. And that’s why it should be hard for the client. Remember that.