In this video, I actually have a question for you, and it’s a very, very, very important question. Do you truly think the best of people? Actually, let me even ask a more important question. Have you suspended judgment of people who do things differently from you? The reason why these are so important questions, when you practice Solution Focused Brief Therapy, is because you must think the very best of people and you must suspend judgment when you are talking to clients.
I think really maybe my favorite thing about Solution Focused Brief Therapy is that it practices with the absence of judgment. One day I was working with this woman and she was struggling with a lot of things in her life, and one of the things was she was dating a married man. And as much as I disagree with that, and as much as I don’t think she should do that, in as much as that’s not a choice I would make, my job is to help this person achieve their desired outcome. And the outcome she was in therapy with had absolutely nothing to do with dating a married man. It actually had to do with substance use.
She was abusing drugs. So we talked about how to live a life where she was not using drugs. We talked about how to be her very, very best version of herself. And we talked about achieving that.
About a month later, she contacted me, and I was so glad that I didn’t interfere with my own judgment and biases, ’cause she called me about a month later, told me that she had gotten sober, and was no longer seeing this married man.
So I say this because, I look around the world that we live in, and there is so much judgment, just because people are living life differently. And I have to ask myself, if we are judging people to such a degree that it’s causing hate, literal, genuine hate violence in this world, what are the chances that we’re actually practicing psychotherapy from a position of thinking the very best of the people in front of us, and functioning without judgment?
It scares me, to be very honest, that we are a culture of people, and a society of people, and maybe even a species, that we’re so judgmental. It interferes with our ability to think positively about other people.
People live life differently than we do. People live life differently than than how I live my life. I make choices on how I dress, how I walk, how I talk, what I do. And in order for therapy to be effective, it first must be non-judgmental. The therapist has to make the assumption that the client is trying their very best to be their very best, even if they’re making choices that are different from the choices you would make.
I get questions, I’m talking like daily, from people saying, “But what about clients who don’t want to change? What about clients who aren’t ready for change? What about clients who like their problem? What about people with bipolar disorder? What about those mean couples?” And every single one of those questions has a baseline of judgment.
What do you think I’m going to say? Like, “Oh yeah, no, you really shouldn’t work with clients who don’t want to change.” Like, “Yeah, clients who don’t wanna change, just send them away.” Or, “People who struggle with bipolar disorder, yeah, like, you know, those are, send those away.”
Every single client, regardless of what issue brought them into therapy, is a human being and should be treated as a human being.
Recently I was in New York City. I was presenting at an event that was hosted by Charlemagne tha God. Charlemagne tha God, if you don’t know him, he is a radio personality, a TV personality, just a celebrity. He’s on the most popular radio show probably in the United States called The Breakfast Club.
He had me at this event in New York, and I was on a panel, and someone asked us on the panel about providing value, like, “Do you feel like you bring value to relationships?” And one of the panelists was saying, “Yes, I feel like I bring value because I do things of value.” And everybody got all up in an uproar.
My perspective on this is, you bring value into this world because you live and breathe. You don’t have to do anything to bring value. I think a lot of times we confuse value with respect. Like, I have to do something to generate respect. But you have value, simply because you are a human being.
I can see in the questions that people ask me, that you’re not seeing clients as human beings. You’re seeing them as conditions. You’re not seeing [the person]. My mother struggles with a mental health disorder. And it just hurts me, it genuinely hurts me, if someone calls and asks me, “How do you do therapy with a person struggling with (the disorder that’s bothering my mother)?”
It hurts me that you would see my mother as a condition. That’s my mom. Every client that you see is somebody’s mother, somebody’s daughter, somebody’s sister, somebody’s brother, somebody’s dad, somebody’s uncle, somebody’s aunt. Every person that you see is valuable, but yet you’ve reduced them to a condition. And then ask me about the condition.
Treat all of [your] clients as if they’re human beings, and do so because you owe them to be non-judgmental. You owe them to view them as the very best of themselves. Every single time I turn on the news, I just see someone attacking someone else simply because they look different, worship different, talk different, dress different. It is unbelievable to me.
So eventually I have to start asking myself, “If we’re this bad at that in life, what are the chances that we do it well clinically?” And I gotta be honest with you, the questions that people send to me daily, every single day, make me think maybe we’re not very good at it clinically either, ’cause if you were to see my mom, I need you to not forget she’s somebody’s mother. I need you to not forget, she’s a human being. A living, breathing soul that is valuable on this world, simply because she exists.
Will she make your job easy in therapy? Maybe not.
Will she have an easy time answering all your questions? Maybe not.
Will you experience her as resistant at times? Maybe.
Will you experience her as someone that’s struggled to change? Maybe.
But do not think that she does not want to change. She calls me all the time telling me things she wants to get better at, and wishes that she could do this, that, or this, that better. And every single one of your clients that you say, ‘doesn’t want to change’, they’re calling their loved ones trying to change.
How dare you think someone that scheduled an appointment with you and then showed up at that appointment and is participating doesn’t want to change just because they’re participating in a way that is hard. How could you allow yourself to think that? If you allow yourself to think that, you’ve accidentally allowed judgment into the dynamic. Once you do that, you’re no longer doing effective therapy.
We have to be non-judgmental in our work. That’s the mandate. When you agreed to become a helping professional, you accepted the mandate to be non-judgmental in your work. And then accidentally judgment starts to happen. I think the best opportunity we have to make this world a better place is to just think better of the people who live a different life than what we live, and to simply be non-judgmental.
That doesn’t mean I have to participate. There are people living lifestyles that I don’t want to participate in, but that doesn’t mean I get to judge them, hate them, or attack them for what they’re doing. I just want you to really have an honest look at yourself and ask yourself, honestly, “Am I thinking the very best of people? Am I practicing non-judgmentally?”
If you are saying that you do, then you’re gonna have to do that outside of the clinical room as well. And that’s how we change this world. I know that some of you are struggling with this because I get questions every day. You’ve gotta practice that in your personal life, as well as in your clinical life, or you won’t be able to do it.
And I think that’s the best opportunity we have to make this world a better place. I think there’s a higher calling on us as healing professionals. To help people heal, means to view them positively and to do so non-judgmentally. And I no longer believe that that’s just something we should be doing clinically. We need to be doing it everywhere.
Let’s set the example for the world.
Let’s do the best we can to make this world a better place.