It is not news that the most important predictor of success in the therapeutic/counseling relationship is the skills of the counselor as opposed to the client’s condition or presenting issues. Behavioral science provides a gold mine of information regarding strategies that the professional has total and exclusive control over, that serve to enhance, as well as inhibit, the quality of the therapeutic relationship.

Take this short quiz, answering with a simple “yes” or “no.”

  1. If I was your client, and I called you, would you, typically, personally answer my call?
  2. If I came to your office, when I entered the building, would the dominant physical features I first encounter consist of wood and/or stone, or the artwork/furnishings that feature them?
  3. Would you normally meet me at your office building’s outer door?
  4. Are there hot beverages, served in ceramic or glass containers, and/or room temperature/cold beverages available for me?
  5. Would you typically stop doing everything else that wasn’t directly related to me (phone calls, emails, texts, Facebook, surfing the Internet, etc.) at least 20 minutes before our scheduled meeting or call?
  6. When I walked into your office, would I be free to choose where I sat?
  7. Typically, once in your office, would we sit with nothing between us?
  8. Would you avoid asking me questions during our time together?
  9. Have you taken steps to insure that 8-year old part of me would be able to fully understand the concepts you think are important for me? (It has been suggested that the part of the brain that actually makes decisions to change habits and behaviors is, developmentally, about 8-years old and understands only messages delivered through the sensory system.)
  10. If our sessions were recorded and analyzed, would it show that for every one minute you talked, you listened to me for four minutes?

The answers to these, and a couple of dozen other questions like these, will influence and shape our overall client outcomes more than anything the client does and have been shown to significantly impact the following:

  • Client compliance—the likelihood of them consistently behaving in their own best interest.
  • Client/Professional relationship resiliency—the likelihood of them staying engaged with you through rough and difficult times, including errors that you might make.
  • Client referrals—the likelihood that a client would recommend you to others, who might benefit from your services.
  • Job satisfaction—the likelihood that you will feel more confident, valuable, and that you’re making a real difference in others’ lives.

A much neglected, ignored, and misunderstood aspect of our work with clients is factoring in and taking advantage of psychological factors that optimize the chances to work-around these natural impediments to optimum client behaviors.

Research suggests, for example, in the quiz given above, the more questions you answered “yes” to, the more you are providing an enriched environment that helps shape client success.

This general session at the 2016 AFCPE Research & Training Symposium will provide the rationale for, as well as highlight, a number of practical ideas designed to create an external and internal environment that enhances the opportunity for client success.

Ted Klontz Ph.D., is Associate Professor, Financial Psychology Institute at Creighton University, Heider School of Business. He can be reached at

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