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James D August 3rd, 2005 07:46 AM

Avoiding compliments
Hi all,
I have a couple of clients with avoidant personality disorder. Interestingly I touched on the topic of accepting compliments with both clients in the past week to gather evidence against typical negative cognitions of being stupid and boring. They both gave the same response - discounted the positive data. When each person was asked what it would be like to accept a compliment I was met with a blank expression on each occasion followed by "I don't know".
These responses certainly didn't surprise me, but I found myself wondering "how should I approach this now?".

I'm interested in other's experience in working with these clients and any suggestions on how to approach clients who 'avoid compliments'! In the meantime i'll revisit the relevant chapter in CT of PD's!

Many thanks,
James D

JustBen August 3rd, 2005 03:17 PM

Re: Avoiding compliments
Sounds like a good candidate for working with "hot cognitions". Offer the client a genuine compliment in-session. Make it something simple and hard to deny. (Example: That's a really nice shirt you're wearing today). If they reject the compliment - and they probably will - you can try to elicit the automatic thoughts that came up and use some socratic questioning or direct disputation to challenge them. (If, for example, the client says, "You're just saying that to be nice" you could respond with, "Why would I do that?", "Why don't you believe that my compliment is genuine?", "I really think it is nice. Are you saying I have bad taste?")

James Pretzer August 3rd, 2005 09:00 PM

Re: Avoiding compliments
Another good option is to examine the pros and cons of of accepting compliments.
  • First, list the advantages the client sees to discounting compliments, the disadvantages they see to discounting compliments, then the advantages and disadvantages of accepting compliments.
  • Once you understand how the client sees it, you can use socratic questioning to help them look critically at the perceived advantages of discounting compliments and the perceived disadvantages of accepting compliments
  • Finally you can use socratic questioning to help them identify additional drawbacks to discounting compliments and additional advantages of accepting compliments.

It isn't unusual for clients to respond at first that they just can't accept compliments. I usually say that the first step is to figure out if accepting compliments would be a good idea. If it turns out that it is a good idea, then we'll try to figure out how they can do it.

James D August 4th, 2005 08:09 AM

Re: Avoiding compliments
Thankyou both for the great suggestions! I'll be sure to integrate them the next time this issue arises..... which is sure to be soon (probably tomorrow)! Stimulated some ideas of my own too.
Thanks again.

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