Many times, a life challenge your clients are facing will feel so devastating or all-consuming that they can’t work productively with you. When this happens, it’s not enough to listen empathetically. In order to help these clients overcome their difficulty, you need to be a source of advice, information and referrals.
When you show your willingness to assist them with overwhelming challenges, I wager your clients will be surprised and grateful. The broader the support you provide, the deeper your relationship can become. Here are some examples of ways to go beyond your areas of expertise and tap outside networks of support to deal with client issues around addiction, debilitating illness, aging and parenting.
Q: My clients have an out-of-control teenage daughter who steals money, bullies other kids and sneaks out to be with her drug-dealer boyfriend. Her parents have tried everything, but I think their only hope is shaking her out of her routine. What could I suggest?
A: When close friends of mine had a daughter in similar trouble, they found a wilderness program that enabled her to get her bearings far from her usual bad influences. They then enrolled her in a nature-oriented private school to reinforce her progress. I’m pleased to say that the girl recently graduated from college near the top of her class and seems headed for a bright future.
Second Nature Wilderness Programs provides well-regarded therapy programs for preteens through adults in Utah, Oregon and Georgia. You might also advise your clients to look into Innercept in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, a residential program that combines therapy and academics for struggling adolescents and young adults.
For clients facing parenting problems, I would also suggest printing out some recent articles from the award-winning Psychotherapy Networker magazine. PN’s January/February 2012 issue contains a number of useful articles for the layperson as well as the clinician.
In the same issue, an article by Dr. David Flohr titled “The ParentCircle” may help clients overcome feelings of disempowerment and frustration. Flohr suggests that parents join or create a support group through their place of worship or a community center. In this “parentcircle,” parents can help each other (sometimes coached by a therapist) and find resources to confront the challenges they’re facing with their children.
Developing a list of resources, including good adolescent and family therapists, will take some work. You’ll need to solicit names from colleagues and other professionals, then screen the resources they recommend. But despite the time it takes, it’s well worth the effort to be a valued go-to person for clients in need.
Q: My clients’ adult son has moved back home, and his alcoholism has disrupted the whole family. He denies that he’s addicted. What resources are available to help them?
A: Clients rocked by a family member’s addiction need all the help they can get. I suggest you have information from Alcoholics Anonymous and Adult Children of Alcoholics on hand for when these situations arise. Of course, there are drug- and alcohol-addiction treatment centers all over the country that can assist addicts once they are ready to get help.
However, an intervention may be necessary to open the eyes of an addict in denial. One expert who has been highly recommended to me is Florida-based Randi Coleman, an interventionist and consultant specializing in addictions.
You might also tell your clients that you are concerned about substance abuse and ask them about experts or programs in your area. By letting them know that you are pulling together this information for them and their families, you will signal that you care and want to help.
Q: Alzheimer’s disease is beginning to affect one of my clients, and his wife worries that their financial resources will be depleted if and when he needs expert care. I want to help her find support, but don’t know where to start.
A: Nothing is more devastating than caring for a spouse or parent with Alzheimer’s. Thankfully, new resources are springing up all the time to help people deal with the demands of this disease.
A good starting point is the Alzheimer’s Association, a rich source of news, education and caregiver tips. Also, check out the Health and Aging section of the National Institutes of Health website.
Caregiver Access, which positions itself as an oasis of legal, financial and emotional support specifically for caregivers, and the National Alliance for Caregiving are other resources.
Once your client connects with a support group, it may enable her to step back and think about her financial situation.
Q: A client of mine was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. She is receiving excellent care, but she and her husband are so distraught that they can’t concentrate on anything else. How can I help them focus on important decisions they need to make?
A: One of the saddest aspects of personal trauma is that people often keep their troubles to themselves. Sometimes they feel ashamed or don’t want to burden others with their troubles.
But anything you can do to connect these clients with counseling or other support may be very positive. Breast cancer survivor groups are everywhere, and support groups for those who help care for patients are also easy to find. Ask at your nearest hospital or women’s resource center.
Susan G. Komen for the Cure is strongly focused on providing information about breast cancer and fund-raising for research. Gilda’s Club has local affiliates in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Canada and Japan to ensure that “no one faces cancer alone.” For a holistic approach to healing, the D.C.-based Smith Center for Healing and the Arts offers programs and classes for cancer patients and their families. And in New York, the Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Care and Prevention pairs patients with their own “navigator,” a personal guide, advocate and problem-solver.
Once you put your clients in touch with sources of support, they’ll be better able to give some attention to financial planning. Just don’t try to rush it.
In the long run, your clients will appreciate the effort you make to provide resources and support at a time of great need. You’re likely to find that their trust in you extends far beyond money. It’s one thing to recommend that your clients or those you care about get help; it’s another to give them specific sources of help.
Look for additional resources in the June Investment Advisor and online at AdvisorOne.com.