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  • Writer's pictureFiona O'Farrell, LMFT

The Art of Gentle Confrontation

"How can I help this client see that they keep doing the very thing that landed them in therapy in the first place?!"


Sound familiar?



I am a systemic therapist trained to conceptualize relational cases by looking at patterns. The theory goes that once a pattern has been identified, it is relatively easy to disrupt and change the pattern (ha!). In theory, this can be a helpful tool for my clinical understanding of what is going on with a couple but not particularly useful in helping my clients see the pattern, how they are participating in it, and how they could do something different. I realized that the trouble I had had little to do with whether the theory held water and more to do with HOW I was bringing it to my clients and working with them. 


The Developmental Model helped me confront my clients clearly and directly while maintaining a gentle approach. 


Often we need more than theoretical concepts or interventions to guide us in supporting our clients in accessing change. As a result, we forget that one of the most powerful change tools we have at our disposal is the use of ourselves as a coach and assistant to the developmental growth of our clients. As Developmental Model co-founder Ellyn Bader put it: The purpose of a good effective confrontation is to help partners to see and acknowledge what they do when they are at their worst without arousing defensiveness or denial. The Developmental Model helped me to bring effective confrontation to my clients, offering more opportunities for them to develop and progress towards what they want and reduce counter-productivity. 


That's the second reason I am excited to bring the Developmental Model to you…to embrace gentle confrontation with your clients to support their treatment goals effectively.


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