The recent suicide of Stephen “tWitch” Boss has many helping professionals exploring how they can do more. Time and time again, when I explore what stops the coaches, clinicians, and healers from asking tough questions to their clients the answer is about confidence.
“I don’t feel confident to ask.”
“I’m not confident in how to handle the emotions that come up.”
“I don’t know what to do next with what they answer.”
We have all been here, and even seasoned professionals at times hit this struggle to as they sense if their client is ready to go deeper.
But there are certain questions we should be asking when our intuition lets us know something isn’t right.
Last week, after the news of tWitch’s death, I went live in the Empowering Your Clients Facebook Community and talked about how we can start asking tough questions with more confidence and why it’s so important that we do.
How to ask your clients tough questions
Option 1: Use the current situation and loss as a way to broach the subject. Talk about the loss. Normalize the hidden grief for many around the loss of a public figure. Normalize the questions that come up. Then, ask “Have you had times where you didn’t want to live? That you wished you could close your eyes and not be here anymore?”
Let them answer and then check in how long ago it was that they had these feelings or thoughts. I’ll take you through what to do next in a minute.
Option 2: Reflect what you hear them sharing about the challenges they are facing and normalize that sometimes people want to give up when they feel all this _______ (pressure, stress, overwhelm, etc). Then ask, “Have you had times where you felt like giving up?”
Listen to their response and ask further questions. If they say “no, I don’t have the option to” or something that shuts the conversation down, you can decide if you want to ask more questions. All along the ways, focus on normalizing what they are feeling and thinking. “I can imagine with so many people relying on you, you don’t feel like you have the option to give up.”
Option 3: Add this question into your first session as an initial “intake” of information. “I ask all my clients this question to just check in on past experiences they have had and even more current thoughts or feelings. Have you had times where you didn’t want to live? If so, what did you do about it?” As they share, you can also ask who is part of their support system in their life right now so you can take note of who to encourage them to contact if issues arise while you are working with them.
What do I do next if they need support beyond me?
On occasion a client will be very open and share that they are in a very dark space. It’s essential, no matter how you work with your client, that you create a plan of action with them.
This is how it might look during a call:
“Liz, I want to thank you for sharing so openly and honestly with me. I know that it is not easy to do at all. I have had times where I have felt this way and reaching out was scary. Let’s create a plan for you so when you get off this call you know what to do next. I can only support you so much since our work is online and we focus on ______ (your work focus: business, mindset, health, etc). First, do you have a mental health professional you are currently seeing or you have seen in the past?”
If they answer yes, have them call that person’s office immediately after the call even if they won’t get an appointment immediately. Advise them to tell the person who answers the phone that is is a ‘mental health emergency’ and then that person will direct them what to do.
If they answer no, then let them know they can call ____________ (research their country’s suicide support line). Of they can go to their local emergency room and share that they are having a mental health emergency. The staff will know what to do. If you make this recommendation, then have them identify a friend or family member they can call to go with them so they are not alone.
It’s ok to ask your clients tough questions
You might be thinking, “But, Katie I’m a business coach/money mindset coach/inner child healer (enter whatever your title is) and I just don’t feel comfortable asking these types of questions.”
Here’s what I would say to you: If your gut/intuition tells you something is off with your client, then try option 1 above and use an example of something that has happened more recently to broach the topic. You’ll have the peace of mind that you checked in and that they know you are here if they need something further.
I highly recommend, no matter what your focus area is as a coach, clinician or healer, that you have websites or people you can refer your clients to to get mental health support if needed. I love Psychology Today for clients in the United States and used to advertise my private practice on it when I worked in the USA. Your country may have something similar, so do a little research and see what you find.
Having a plan for how to ask your clients tough questions, then a plan for what to do next, and ultimately a referral list or website to refer them to will help build your confidence as you support your clients through their life journey.
Want to learn more ways to build confidence in how you work with your clients?