Keep your pain if you want


Dear Therapists,

Do clients frustrate you?

‘What do I have to do to get rid of this pain?’ my clients ask.

“Do this (insert action) 3 times a week,” I reply.

They return with the same problem a couple of weeks later and ask the same question, ‘What do I have to do to get rid of this pain?’

‘Did you do what I suggested?’

 ‘No. Do you have any other suggestions?’ they ponder.

I want to slap them.


Do you think I was guessing at a solution? I gave you exactly what you need to do to keep yourself out of pain. It’s what I do. If you choose to ignore the solution and keep doing the same behaviors, you get to keep your pain. You are wasting time and money. Congratulations, you are stupid.

Do you repeat your advice appointments over and over again?

Yeah, me too. (I'm guilty for not following other professional's suggestions so I can't throw stones.)

I have a famous C-suite executive that pays me exceptionally well to ‘put him back together.’ Over a decade, I’ve suggested that he tries a yoga instructor close to his home to open up his hips. On my latest trips, I gave the suggestion again.

He replied, “James, when will you realize that I will never go to a yoga class?”

My response, “You pay me to get you into good health. I set you up for success. The next step for you is to take a vinyasa flow yoga class. My work is like ‘snaking a clogged drain,’ and yoga is like the water that flushes all the gunk out. The truth isn’t going to change just because you don’t like it. When will you realize that I’m never going to stop suggesting that you take a yoga class?”

The advice I give seems mind-blowingly unique to most and frustrating to those who won’t follow it. Clients usually want a pill or magic, and those are either unhealthy or unavailable.

If you hung out with me for a while, you’d hear the same bits of information over and over again, multiple times a week. If you were my shadow, I’d get less brilliant by the day. There are about 20 suggestions I offer, mixed into five main monologues. I incorporate the same jokes because they reinforce my point while garnering a laugh.

But if my words are on point, why don’t people take my advice?


There are three main answers:

  1. They need to be touched seven times 
  2. They don’t have enough pain
  3. They don’t respect your opinion enough

They need to be touched seven times = Classic Sales Clients.

Most sales require us to have at least seven touchpoints before a buy occurs. However, pain is such a powerful motivator that people purchase our services with only the hope that ‘maybe it will work.’ They try you out of necessity, not because they believe in your ability. The fact is, you haven’t touched them enough.

They don’t have enough pain = Pain Loving Clients.

Pain Loving Clients are those who are barely able to hobble into your practice. They are the same people who refuse to change the oil in their car for 60,000 miles and then wonder why the engine seizes up. Then they wonder, what happened in the last 10 miles that caused this problem? One must explain that the last 10 miles are not the problem. It’s the 50,000+ miles that they ignored the issue; that is the problem.

They don’t respect your opinion enough = Fancy Pants Clients.

Fancy-pants Clients are accustomed to having the answers in life they need. They look at your work as a Band-Aid on a temporary problem. Once you put on the Band-Aid (remove the immediate pain), their minds tune you out. They could be pro-athletes, C-suite executives, celebrities, or the housewife down the street. It’s a matter of perspective, not position. However, it’s not personal.


Food for thought:

  • There is a stark difference between someone ‘buying into your services’ because they believe in your ability and someone willing to ‘try anything’ to relieve their pain. Hope springs eternal, and you remember that you represent hope.
  • Avoid focusing on the ‘Straw that broke the camel’s back.’ The issue that gets ignored is where problems occur. Pain has the beautiful ability to gradually ‘increase the volume’ until someone is forced to listen. 
  • People that don’t listen to you become beholden to your services. They need you because they don’t take your advice. They provide the most significant integrity test because they require you to keep encouraging them with protocols to remove their need of you. If you are genuinely trying to help them, keep repeating yourself like a broken record. Try and say the same thing using different words. Remember, their pain isn’t yours.

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