The counselor acknowledges that the client may feel uncomfortable at first about role playing and that this is a normal reaction. The counselor assures the client that, with practice, the client will get into a scene realistically and focus on his or her role. Resistance can take subtle forms such as focusing on other issues or asking many questions.
The counselor develops scenes for role plays that are relevant to the client. Meaningful scenarios increase engagement in the role play and the likelihood that the client achieves a sense of mastery over the situation. The following strategies are useful in generating scenes:
• Recalling events. The counselor asks the client to recall a recent event in which he or she could have used the skill being taught.
• Anticipating future triggers. The counselor asks the client to anticipate a difficult situation that may arise in which the skill can be used.
• Making suggestions. The counselor suggests an appropriate situation based on his or her knowledge of the client’s circumstances.
The counselor and the client anticipate a future trigger in this role play.
C: It might help to practice what you can say to your colleagues when they are socializing after your business meeting.
Miguel (M): Sure, I’m willing to try it.
C: I’ll play one of your colleagues, and you practice some responses. Hey, Miguel! Good to see you. Why don’t you come to my room and we’ll burn a few?
M: It’s good to see you too! I hope you won’t be offended, but since I saw you last, I’ve stopped smoking. I’d love to spend some time with you though.
C: Aw come on! Just a few tokes for old times’ sake?
M: How about we just sit and talk. I really don’t want to smoke pot anymore.
C: Great job!
After completing a role play, the counselor and client must process it effectively. Processing provides an opportunity for a client to receive praise and constructive criticism and includes the following:
• The counselor and client react to the role play, considering how they felt about the way the situation was handled and the effects of the interaction.
• The counselor’s comments provide sincere reinforcing and constructive criticism. Positive and negative feedback focuses on specific aspects of the person’s behavior and points out what was particularly effective or ineffective.
• The counselor tries a role reversal. The client plays the role of the target person. This strategy is useful if a client has difficulty using a skill or is pessimistic about the approach’s effectiveness. By playing the other person, the client has an opportunity to experience the effects of the skill.
In another situation, the counselor and client switch roles. The counselor plays a person who is offered marijuana at a party. The client plays the person offering marijuana by saying, “Here, help us celebrate.” The client ignores the counselor’s refusal and says, “Oh, come on, getting high won’t hurt you.” The counselor, in the role of the person being pressured, demonstrates an
effective and assertive way to handle the situation.
Some role plays require using more than one partner, such as a group of people sitting around a dining room table offering multiple prompts to use. The counselor encourages the client to visualize such scenarios even though the individual therapy setting does not provide multiple partners. The counselor attempts to rehearse a variety of scenes involving colleagues, parties, restaurants, old friends, and new acquaintances. The counselor elicits the client’s suggestions about how the person offering marijuana will react to the client’s refusal to use.
Assign Between-Session Exercise
The counselor reviews Marijuana Refusal Skills (form 8A) and asks the client to complete the form before the next session.
Review and Conclude Session
The counselor reviews the content of the session, asks the client for feedback, responds empathically to his or her comments, and troubleshoots any difficulties. The counselor explains that the client will report back on his or her efforts to complete the between-session exercise at the next session. The counselor might remind the client that treatment will be ending soon and solicit the client’s feelings about termination and input on the best way to spend the remaining session.