Why Everybody Hates Rehab

I was thinking the other day about all the different people in my life that I go to for advice; the people I trust, that are credible, and have my best interests at heart.

This is how we want our clients to see us, right? We want them to know that our expertise is going to help them do more of what matters to them.

We want our clients to trust us.

So why does everybody hate rehab?



Think about the people you trust. Why do you trust them? Did you get to know them over time? How did you meet them? What were the circumstances?


Compare this to how people normally get introduced to Rehab Professionals:

Most people are referred to a Rehabilitation Counsellor by someone else who thinks its a good idea. Most of our clients don't know what Rehabilitation Counsellors do - at all - so naturally, they are at least a little confused, and maybe even suspicious of our involvement.

Imagine if this is how you got introduced to other people - by being told that this person, who you have never heard of, is going to call you and start helping you with something you didn't know you needed help with.

No wonder everybody hates rehab!

This post isn't about blaming anyone.

But I do want to shed light on why building trust in a Rehab setting requires a unique approach.

A lot of the time, our presence signals a huge threat to our clients.
  • Threat that they will be told how to live their life.
  • Threat that change and uncertainty are coming.
  • Threat of financial insecurity through loss of income or benefit.
  • Threat that someone they don't know or trust is about to tell them that they know what they need.

We don't come with assumed expertise or credibility. We aren't like Doctors, or Architects, or the countless other specialists and experts that we go to for advice when we need help.

We have to build that. We have to show that we care. We have to show that we are different by slowing down and taking the time to ask questions and understand what's really going on here.

We have to work hard to mitigate the sense of threat, uncertainty and change that underlies our sudden involvement our clients' lives.

So let's slow down.

Breaking the Ice

When I started working with some of my first clients, I was so nervous. I totally forgot to break the ice.

I would get a referral, and call my client (and say the following in a single, confusing breath):

Hi, this is Natalie, I'm a Rehabilitation Counsellor from ________. Your insurer has asked me to meet with you to see how I can help you with ________. Is there a time I could come meet you?

Talk about jumping the gun.

These days, I take the time to clarify a lot of things.

  • Did the person know I was going to call them?
  • Do they know why?
  • Do they know what my priorities are (AKA - what the heck is a rehab counsellor!?)?
  • Do they have any questions about me and what I do?

These are just some examples of the questions we need to ask to slow right down and start building trust.

I know that you probably feel pressure from a million different sources to just book the appointment, do the assessment, write the report and solve the problem.

But you need to clarify the problem first - it might not be what you thought it was. Which means the solution might not be what you think it is.

If you don't slow down and ask questions, you might even be trying to solve the wrong problem.

Solving problems takes time. Helping our clients takes time. Building trust takes time.

Trust, credibility and respect is not something we get out of the box. We have to earn it before we start trying to solve problems. Not taking the time to build trust will only add to the problem.

So next time you pick up the phone, or call to make an appointment, I dare you to ask - how can I slow down?

You might discover something interesting if you do.

What questions do you think are important to ask? Let me know in the comments below.


Image credit: Feature image by Alex Proimos is licensed under NC by 2.0

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