Expert Strategies for Helping Clients Get “Unstuck”

One of the main reasons clients come to see us is that they’re stuck – in one way or another.

Maybe they’ve got limiting beliefs about what they can, or can’t, accomplish. Sometimes the fear of trying something new holds people back.

When a client is stuck, it’s often useful to consider how other practitioners have successfully helped their clients move forward.

In the video below, ten experts weigh in on why people get stuck, and how we can help them heal.

Take a look – it’s less than 4 minutes.

This video was taken from the Next Level Practitioner training program where members receive a daily video full of practical insights from one of the top 25 experts in our field. That program is not open for new members right now, but if you want to be on a waiting list in case it opens up, please click here.

What techniques have you used in working with a client who was stuck? Please tell us about it in the comment section below.

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37 Comments

  1. ludo king says:

    Very useful info, thanks

  2. wingsio says:

    Yes, the article I was looking for. Your article gives me another approach on the subject. I hope to read more articles from you.

  3. I have asked clients who are having anxious sleepless nights to take a pillow and hug it as thought they were hugging their inner child

    • Scott Liam says:

      Love this. Sometimes I give myself a silence treatment, just doing really nothing. And until it unblock a resentment of being into the world or rather to make peace with my world, I just have a time of nothing to do nor to think of and least of all to talk about. And this may be the same for my clients who just need a soothing moment. Just to put myself on my client shoes.

  4. FLYN HAYES says:

    i EXCHANGE CHAIRS AND BECOME THE CLIENT; HAVING THE CLIENT ASSIST ME IN DISCOVERING SOME OPTIONS FOR DISMISSING, PIERCING, ACKNOWLEDGING THEIR DEFACTO RESISTANCE POSITIONING, AND SO ON…
    IT HAS WORKED THROUGH FOR THE PERSON TO BE WILLING TO ASSIST SOMEONE ELSE WITH IMPORTANT INSIGHTS NOT AVAILABLE FROM THE CLIENT CHAIR.

  5. Using IFS & Voice Dialogue principles & skills, accessing the “stuck part” with a sense of curiosity, not judgment, witnessing it, directly dialogue g with it, can allow the client to understand its purpose, its job, & then explore how it’s trying to help or protect the client. Understanding cnthen replace judgment & stuckness, leading to actin moving forward. Parts work gives one distance from the part & identifying oneself as one who issuck.

  6. Elaine Dolan says:

    There should be a diagnostic code for VIOLENCE…stuckness may be a pain, but violence is the worst thing on earth.

  7. Nsom Michael Angoh says:

    I have to make them like me first before they get unstuck.

  8. Susan Penn says:

    Working with Dr. Stephen Gilligan’s work in Generative Coaching, and I have been entering into and holding the contracted state while connecting the client to a ‘resourced” creative or generative state of what they want, what it feels like, how it would be somatically modeled, what color it may appear to be…felt sense, somatic action and emotional experience of another state rather than combatting the “stuck.” Working on this with myself as well.

    Working at performance and every day cognitive levels does not serve. Can’t create the solution with the problem!

  9. Susan Penn says:

    Working with Dr. Stephen Gilligan’s work in Generative Coaching, and I have been entering into and holding the contracted state while connecting the client to a ‘resourced” creative or generative state of what they want, what it feels like, how it would be somatically modeled, what color it may appear to be…felt sense, somatic action and emotional experience of another state rather than combatting the “stuck.” Working on this with myself as well.

  10. Ian Blei says:

    Jack Kornfield really touched on my primary approach: identify the “narrative” as a narrative, and ONLY as a narrative. If we identify ONLY as the body or “differentiated ego,” we leave behind our greatest asset: our Consciousness. Our Consciousness exists without a narrative, and thus is free.

    As soon as we understand our cognitive linguistic “prisons,” we can open the gates. Are we locked in by childish “absolutes?” (I never, I always, etc.) All about staying up, cleaning our rooms, doing our homework? Are we insisting that the rear view mirror is the same as the windshield?

    Awareness, interrupts, replacements. For my clients who employ this: a 100% success rate in getting un-stuck.

  11. J. Dragon says:

    Thank you for all the tips. It’s very similar in what and how I work with the stuck situation with clients. I use ThetaHealing Technique in helping my clients to feel safe, and then guide them to the point of origin where the stuckness (fear, anxiety etc) first appeared. There is always a reason how it’s serving them, even positively, to stay in the ‘stuck’ position, which ultimately can be a ‘victim’ position. Bringing the ‘stuck’ or dissociated aspect to the present moment also helps to unlock the freeze. In ThetaHealing, we use a technique called downloading Creator’s teachings which are psychological concepts that the person doesn’t have. It really makes from some faster shifting. There are also virtues that the client is learning, and instead of it being through the ‘stuck’ position, it can be through that All-That-IS/Divine energy.

  12. Elizabeth Agneses says:

    Thanks to you all!
    It is so true that direct experience is the key for opening what resides inside.
    It is through engaging skill experiences, that create access to his/her authentic voice and authentic emotions throughout the whole process of learning.

    We all support one another on this mighty journey called Life

    Elizabeth Agnese, M.A.

  13. Jill Massura says:

    I use EFT to help keep clients safe while we explore the “.stuckness” and I use action steps and daily affirmation work to help change their dialogue within. ❤️ I am also a licensed Polarity therapist and work to release trauma and stuck emotion through hands on healing work in session and by giving clients techniques they can use as self care, at home.

  14. I have found, like many in the field of Prenatal and Birth Psychology and therapy, that the experience of stuckness often relates to one’s experience of being stuck in the birth canal at birth. I would look at what the client is birthing or moving into or out of in their lives at the time. Working somatically with finding their way through a gently resistive representation of the birth canal can address the feelings of being stuck and empower the person to find a way through. This can be repeated with gradually increasing the resistance, which needs to just meet the person’s ability to push, enabling them to really feel it. Over time, they have more confidence, as they process the old experience of being powerless, often accompanied by rage or terror, since birth is a life and death event. Differentiating between how it was back then and how it is now can also be helpful. Acknowledging the client’s strengths here and now, sensing them in the their adult body, applying them to moving through whatever it is. Just a word of caution that working with birth material is likely to also trigger the therapist’s unresolved birth issues, so it is advisable to do your own work in this area or refer to someone who specialises in prenatal and birth therapy.

  15. I’ll use a combination of TRE and EFT with some specific breathing techniques and work mainly with the question:”What’s here now?”
    Bring them out of their mind and into their body and I’ve seen some pretty amazing shifts working bottom – up rather than top – down!

  16. smfields says:

    What will the client lose by getting unstuck? Ask! Also, you can fill a pond with one boulder or a thousand smaller stones. When the client weighs the costs and benefits of acting or not acting, we can with listening and kindness encourage very small steps and help them experience that and then……..at their discovered pace and with our non-threatening encouragement….have them see what they experience by action and begin to move on; if they really want to!

  17. Thank you.

  18. Thank you team experts for valuable methods in helping clients. What I have done in my work with clients, and has worked, has been to break down the goal into small steps and draw out a plan to begin the journey of change. When they have the vision followed by the manageable steps they can follow it makes it easier for them to see how they can get to where they want to be – it stops being overwhelming.

  19. a few months ago after over 6 mos of working with a man who simply could not get over his wife’s infidelity who identified himself as “stuck”…. and trying all of the tricks in my 35 yr old bag of them…i referred out to an EMDR therapist. the last i heard, it was “working a little bit”

    i took EMDR from francine in 1995, but it’s just not my model of choice. i think he had relational PTSD and i’m hoping it helped him

  20. Barbara Caspy says:

    Besides the good ideas you presented in the video, I find that it’s often productive to help clients move forward by asking them about their fears related to the place they’re stuck, and helping them to work through those fears.

  21. sheila massoni says:

    ok I was stuck big time when my daughter an only child was brutally murdered march1 2004 in her home in her bed morgan Kelly Cameron was b july 28 1967 I was a freshman in a nj state teachers college I lied and got to finish semester delivered a horrendous birth but then 5 weeks later emergency appendectomy yup only missed first3 days of classes then nov 9 1969 had massive breakdown long story plus 2 big sucide attempta 36 ects in 1 year but hey I did grad a year late then worked then did 15 years doing 411 got ma from fdu teanceck a Verizon benefit plus met 2 husband on job march 1 2004 I was recovering from rotator cuff surgery at home on a full rise to stste univ of new York at Binghamton then her death school was great 9 months I was back but finishing from home my thesis won not first place who cares it was shortened published by u of Kentucky finisishingline press a real press title morgan writng through grief which I buy my own copies pass along selct places ie md offices boy I have plenty a shock like this shuts your body down since feb I’m being medically superived withdrawal from all psycotropics doing nj legal weed yup failed typing in hs 1964 ra genetic in hands this be true am no troll

  22. Jennifer St Jude says:

    In order to move forward in therapy and get through difficult issues and experience growth and healing the client needs to have critical pieces to the puzzle in his or her possession. Those puzzle pieces are: a vision of what the task is, motivation for change, skills to do the task at hand, a plan of action, a belief that he or her is capable and hope for something better.
    So many times I see that what holds a client back is not having ALL the critical pieces needed for success. It is important to identify which pieces to the puzzle are missing and work on having them all in place before you reattempt the task at hand. Sometimes it is the client that wants to push forward without having all the tools and other times it is the clinician that mistakenly believes the client has all the tools and begins to inadvertently push them to begin the task they aren’t ready for.
    I believe the best skill for both client and clinician to possess is the ability to pause in an unsuccessful situation and reevaluate the path and the tools you’re carrying on the journey. Often we begin and achieve distance so far down a path is hard to stop and turn back or to switch directions. It is probably equal is hard to admit that far down the road that we left on that long journey without the pieces we need to complete it. But being able to stop and reevaluate could potentially save you from wasting time and distance in the wrong direction or no direction at all.
    There’s no room for pride or ego on the journey to save a life. Whether it’s yours or someone else’s, being able to admit mistakes and not waste time regretting them could be the answer to being able to pause, regroup, renegotiate and achieve success.

    • Dawn McKinney Botefuhr says:

      Thank you for your comment.

      I believe there is a purpose, a place for all that we do, and a Creator for all that exist.

      Praise the creator, and bless you and the author and everyone that made all this possible. Who knows all the lies that you have just affected and saved by your response.

      Have a blessed day.

      • Ellie says:

        I love your comment as well.

        I was raised in an isolated country area by a mother who was very emotionally manipulative and abusive who had severe bipolar depression. She’s tried all sorts of medications and alternative therapies and talk therapies with no help or up and down roller coaster rides of seeming better and then sabotaging treatments. She was unemployed my entire childhood, but couldn’t or doesn’t deserve to be called a “stay at home mom.” My father has been faithful aka read enabling, but had to work very hard long hours to support six people. My mom however, despite the help would insult him to us (my siblings and I) and admits she never loved him, but felt it was God’s calling to marry him or she had to. She had issues with hoarding, leaning on me for emotional support, and was very neglectful of basic needs like having proper meals or ever washing clothes. I was doing my own laundry from second grade up full time, rarely had any homework help, felt ashamed of the situation and was alienated at school not being able to make friends easily, we didn’t have a t.v. even, she’d go into psychosis rages and “preach” or say she was a prophet… I had specific trauma events of being left in a hot car with no shoes to leave and cross the pavement while she was shopping and of very shaming events around puberty too, with her insulting my skin and look or need for hygiene products.

        I myself have social anxiety and depression. I’ve worked through a lot on my own by journaling and using art, but I still feel very vulnerable, have panic attacks in public sometimes, and hate leaving the house. I was married at 23 and thought it was great at first, but my relationship is very codependent. I’m compliant and my husband has some slightly higher than average narcissistic and controlling traits… like saying if I ever left he’d get back at me, he’d shove me out of the bed and “make” me sleep on the floor saying the working man gets the bed and I was making it too hot, and it took me forever to even ask for him to buy a bigger bed or to react angrily or even feel violated about it… I had no money and felt like I had no where else to go… He doesn’t agree or support me finishing my college education… and so on… I live like a 1950’s housewife minus the kids. Finding employment has been extremely challenging for me. I want to gain back some independence. I want to get out of my depression and see that my life can improve. But the last time I had a full time job I lost 15 pounds in a few months, had strep back to back, couldn’t make up sick days, was on aplrazolam to control my shaking, but it didn’t help much… I need therapy and/or medication, but have been financially controlled – again, partially my own fault, but my husband does do VERY WELL, and has the means to help, and I don’t have debt nor have been reckless financially, but anyways, he wouldn’t help me when my car was falling apart so that I could even drive to interviews, we didn’t have a printer for me to print off my resume, I’ve been living here for 5 years and he still won’t share closet space and it’s difficult dressing out of suitcases, I didn’t have health insurance as a child and needed glasses to drive too and I couldn’t make doctor appointments because of finances again..I also couldn’t afford nice clothes or a professional wardrobe or interview outfits either. Well, I finally pushed through those things, and have checked a lot off my to do list, and he purchased a new car letting me his old one. I hit it off with the lady at the dealership and she suggested I apply there. I apparently give decent first impressions… but then my husband frustrated with my hesitation and fears…anxiety over my energy levels and ability to preform under sales pressure and high customer service interactions kept yelling at me that I had to do it and I felt totally cornered and wanted to run…

        Sometimes it feels like I’ve overcome a lot and I’ve tried being logical and checking things off that I need in order to help myself stabilize, but then I crash and feel totally worthless again or break down and cry… I feel totally overwhelmed and handicapped when people tell me all I’ve messed up or how I “should be” by now. They wonder why the past affects me. Why someone who looks fine could be such an insecure basket-case. Sighs* I’d love to have a solid job, even part time, and then save to go back to college for studio art. I’ve read boundary books trying to control myself better to improve my relationship. – But, I keep feeling stuck, alone in the world, with not a lot of reasons to care or try anymore. I feel like I’ve missed out on secure feeling love and proper developmental milestones. I feel so behind the curve that I’ll never be able to function fully on my own. I’m not sure what all I need, but I feel incomplete with helping myself on my own. I don’t want to be babied, or pitied, but I wish other people could understand what a huge hurdle something as simple as applying to a new job can be for me.

        If things were easy or naturally in my ability, then I would have done them by now! Hard pushes by aggressive types always backfire with me. Reading affirmations feel empty because I haven’t earned true self-esteem or self-belief. I hate the panacea happy answers some people give, sometimes life is rough and we’re not okay, but emotions shouldn’t be labeled good or bad, it all just exists. Setting limits like saying I’ll go to my sisters house or drive separately if my husband speeds or has more road rage incidents or threatens me, falls less assertively because I am so dependent on him. (You can choose to yell, but I can choose to go to another room. You can choose to look at porn, but I can choose to not share my body with you when I’m feeling devalued by you.) But nothing phases him and he already does what he wants. You can only set boundaries when secure in love and when trusting your own wings over the branch you sit on. And how do I gain skills I need and go back to college without money, and how do I get money when I don’t have the skills I need to get a job… :( We create life through ourselves. I attract what I have because I felt broken and bad and less deserving on the inside, because I was made to feel wrong and bad as a child…to preserve my parent as a caregiver image. My fear response in social situations is trying to protect me but is an outdated need… I’ve learned so much, and yet, here I am, still stuck…and sweating like crazy because I never share personal things online… lol…

        I’m intelligent enough to not cut or abuse myself, I don’t do drugs or drink more than once a month, I do take vitamin D and try to breathe fresh nature air on walks…my primary doctor did a hormone spit test showing high cortisol levels and prescribed an adrenal supplement, but I can’t afford it… I;m somewhat estranged from my mom and siblings, but I’ve started going to church with my mother in law and we’re decently close. I want to reach out to others. I try to keep reading self-help book rather than to get into an affair or other trouble. I don’t start stupid arguments or cause trouble. I’ve never been in trouble with the law. I do groom myself and dress as neatly as possible and try to stay kind towards other despite my pain or growing cynicism. I do watch YouTube videos on art and try to make time for my hobbies to continue cultivating my skills even without proper education. I try, and yet, after a day of chores I end up crying in a ball on the couch while my husband plays computer games. I can’t picture myself ever thriving or having children. I just want some skills to take care of myself if I had to get out and live on my own. I try to value the right things, savor what I do have with gratitude, and look for meaning over personal happiness…

        Why after all this time do emotions still cripple me and sabotage the efforts I do make?

  23. I use EFT to get my coaching clients off the mark because being stuck is not just a mindset issue but all that energy can also lock up in the body and cause physical trouble as well. That’s why EFT is so fast…if you know how to really use it…because it works on the mind, body AND spirit! I am not a therapist. I am an EFT coach & I’ve gotten many referrals from people who have tried many therapies with little success. It’s an amazing technique and is so powerful when you really learn how to use it to first, unblock the resistance (that’s an energy), and then work on the mindset.

  24. Eileen Fera says:

    Walk in straight paths that the lame foot may not be disfigured but healed.

  25. Using the client’s narrative as an agent for change. Identifying what part of the change may be bad or good. Connecting thoughts and feelings of being safe or comfortable by remaining stuck. Exploring the feelings of being unsafe or insecure and acknolwedging those reactive behavior choices that keep the client stuck and prevent the desired change.

  26. Jacqui Dixon says:

    In my experience, as a psychodynamic counsellor, clients can experience ” stuck” as a regression. They want to go back to how they felt before. They don’t want to feel like “this” any longer. The work can be about coming to terms with the death of the old self. They can’t go back to how things were but they are fearful of going forward. In truth, they have already made the change, and are on their way to being someone wholly different or someone who feels different. They need help in coming to terms with this.
    Jacqui Dixon

    • Nicely put, Jacqui! This resonates with me as well.

    • Jenni says:

      This description resonates with me (as the client) in a way that I was not able to express to my therapist. Thank you!

      • Nancy Thiessen says:

        Hi, Jacqui

        Well, sounds like what you are saying is that it is like a loss and new learning about grief…. may be.

  27. Shirleen Roach says:

    I use a variation of the 12 step program with my women in a dual diagnosis treatment center. Many of my patients have lost their faith in a higher power or never had one to start with. I assure them that I am not proselytizing a form of religion, but hopefully leading them to look beyond themselves to a “higher power” that is right for them. In their addiction they have been so inwardly focused, trying to relieve their pain with “objects” (drugs or alcohol); they must turn themselves outward, open up to the world at large which can be a beautiful place for them. I have seen women so wounded you would say “there is no hope for them.” BUT there is hope and they do metamophosize into healthy, beautiful butterflies.

  28. Mark O'SHEA says:

    After practicing as of psychodynamic therapist for 20 years and hoping and believing that the relationship held the curative factors I discovered teaching skills was almost equally as affective so I have integrated into my practice skills. Addition to scales open identify the catastrophizibg tendencies many people tend to slip into after years of frustration provides both relief and empowerment to change. I thought about a woman I’m working with has a lot of social anxiety is very introverted and I wondered whether my work was helpful to her we examine that and I was pleasantly surprised to realize she had felt she was making tremendous changes and very much wanted to continue to work the way we were going. The trauma survivor I’ve been working with for years just like very much the notion of restructuring were the kind me to behavioral concepts around identifying catastrophize Ing with us so common in her reality and while she wasn’t so happy with the less relationship oriented style that I had integrated into our changes she made it we’re dramatic.

  29. Rebecca Peterson says:

    Very interesting comment about the difference between “doing” something differently and “experiencing” the action. Reminds me of the “just do it” advert. I wonder about the role of shame in resisting new behaviors… the need for an atmosphere of safety was an important viewpoint. Perhaps starting with small things. I appreciated the different voices and perspectives. As a therapist working from a Jungian Embodied Imagination(r) practice, I see the value of experiencing new ways of being through the imaginal~dreams & embodied memory can help with these shifts. Great video!

  30. Beth Stephens says:

    Maybe might work

  31. To help clients get unstuck, we created a web app that takes them through a 3-step process of 1) bringing the upsetting situation as present as possible, through their thoughts, feelings, and sensations 2) reminding them of their beautiful heart and 3) knowing that they have a beautiful heart, having them repeat beautiful loving sentiments to the person inside experiencing this upset. We call it a dose of love, and it seems to have remarkably good results from just one 10-minute session. If you’re curious, it’s at http://www.lovex.com

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