408 – Beyond “Poor Baby!” and “What a Jerk!” Therapy


Beyond “Poor Baby!” and “What a Jerk!” Therapy

Balancing Support and Accountability for Clients with Relationship Complaints

When clients tell us stories about people who cause them pain it can be easy to take their side and see things their way. If we aren’t careful, we end up treating our client as a “poor baby!” who has to deal with difficult people, and a “what a jerk!” attitude toward family members and relationship partners whose behavior we hear about in every session. The result is a client who feels supported but doesn’t see their role in chronic relationship problems. In this workshop you’ll discover:

  • How to identify the traps we fall into as we listen to our client’s complaints about how others are treating them
  • Develop a systemic mindset for understanding how our clients become part of painful relationship patterns that they have some responsibility for maintaining
  • Practice skills for blending empathy and perspective that help clients expand their self-knowledge and ability to manage relationships well

William Doherty, PhD, is a professor and director of the Minnesota Couples on the Brink Project at the University of Minnesota. He’s cofounder of Braver Angels, a nonprofit working to depolarize America. His books include The Ethical Lives of Clients: Transcending Self-Interest in Psychotherapy.