Hi Joanne – I would refer to a psychologist if the stress appears unmanageable by the client. While I can certainly have an open ear, I am by no means a psychologist and don’t analyze or diagnose for professional and legal reasons. There is no cookie cutter timeline I follow, as each client is different and presents unique challenges, including post-pardem depression, divorce, fibromyalgia, ill spouse, cancer survivor, etc.
I have a network of professionals I refer clients out to, not just psychologists but chiropractors, massage therapists skilled at specific conditions, physicians, etc. Not only does this help build my credibility in the eyes of the client, but helps them know I care about them and want what is best for them. I do not get any kickbacks for these referrals, so there is no incentive for me other than the wellbeing of the client. In situations where the client is currently seeing a physician or psychologist, I try to get their involvement or input in the client’s training so that we are working in partnership for the client’s benefit.
In my experience, most people aren’t professionals at hiding these types of feelings. I think that there is inate ability in each of us to be able to tell when something isn’t quite right with a friend or another person.
It usually mainifests itself in lack of concentration or despondency. I rely on good judgment to guide me in situations when clients are stressed. It can be hard to know when to ask and when not to ask if something is wrong. You never REALLY know how someone is going to react, depending on what’s going on. Generally, asking at the start of the session, “How have you been?” is enough to open that door.
I’m a firm believer that most people just want someone to listen and say to them “I’m sorry” or “It’s OK.” In a sense, you can offer “therapy” through exercise. That’s not what I’m advocating, I’m just saying that the word “therapy” seems to be the only word that fits into what I’m trying to say. The emphasis still has to be on the session. If you’re really into what you’re doing, you sometimes can quickly get your client’s mind off of what’s eating him/her up!
Sometimes having a positive attitude is enough to get the job done. Referral to a counseling psychologist would be needed, in my view, when the client has been consistently down or stressed for at least 3 sessions in a row, or for at least 1/4 of the total sessions. That referral would most likely start off with “What are your thoughts on counseling?” I would try to work that into a session as best I could. A lot of people get offended when you suggest counseling, so it’s never easy to bring that topic up. That might be when I open up to my client about my great experiences with counseling, without offering too much personal information. It’s a good thing to seek help from those who care, which counselors generally do, or at least they do a good job of convincing you that they do! =)
My response to my clients’ stresses will depend on the client and the nature of the stress. Since I have trained the vast majority of my clients for a long time, I tend to be knowledgeable about their life circumstances and also know them well enough to know if something ‘is not right’.
Ultimately, all stress is internal, and what is a stressor to one person is laughable to another. Even so, I try to respond to the person’s perspective, in some cases empathizing, in others with practical advice.
I just happen to have two clients right now who are experiencing profound stress because of life-threatening situations of their animal companions.
I will be there to talk to and be the shoulder to cry on. I will not press them on their workouts but let them know it is okay to put that on the backburner. But I will also observe a pattern over the long run and may advise support groups if that becomes necessary.
When they come to workout, I’ll adjust the intensity and modality. I’ll just go with my gut-feel and trust that I find the right approach.
Often times psychological stress manifests itself in physical symptoms, such as muscle fatigue or tension, digestion issues, elevated heart rate, elevated blood pressure, weight gain, and more. A good trainer should converse with clients about lifestyle issues as part of their overall training, and factor these matters into their training regimen. Including stress-reducing offerings such as yoga or meditation are great to help cope with or alleviate the stress.