Research Spotlight: Dr. Charles A. Waehler

Charles A. Waehler, Associate Professor, has supervised students working with clients and seen his own clients as a practicing psychologist since joining The University of Akron 21 years ago.  In doing so he has come to know the privilege and opportunity of joining a client in her/his journey to overcome personal barriers and become a more fully functioning adult.  He has also felt the challenge of having clients ask direct questions of their therapist.  Client questions can be perplexing because they turn the tables from the usual pattern of therapists being the ones who ask questions.  Client questions can sometimes be used by the client to turn the focus away from them or ask very personal questions of the therapist, but at other times they can be legitimate questions or an opening for growth to take place.  What does an ethical therapist do? 

With this challenge in mind, Waehler, together with a colleague in Chicago, psychologist Linda N. Edelstein, is co-authoring a new book entitled “What Do I Say? The Therapist’s Guide to Answering Client Questions” This book synthesizes information from years of teaching, reading, supervising, and practicing psychotherapy to produce a practical, accessible book which will assist helping professionals further facilitate client growth. 

Waehler and Edelstein contend that, in general, good answers to client questions will: 

1) lead the client to say more about her life and personal undertakings, promoting an exploration which expands the breadth of material covered;

2) lead the client to feel feelings more deeply and think more complexly, promoting greater depth of areas explored; 

3) help develop, maintain, or increase a good working relationship with the client, promoting the connectedness which the client feels with the therapist. 

Waehler’s work with client questions is consistent with his other research with psychological assessment, professional issues, and the therapeutic process as tries to he increase the complexity with which the human condition is viewed while also clarifying what more is needed.  This theme runs through Waehler’s work with clients and his research efforts to:  include internationalization efforts in higher education; consider contextual factors when resolving ethical questions; integrate practice guidelines into professional training; validate a new psychotherapy outcome measure, and review multicultural applications of assessment instruments with long-established history. 

In all these research endeavors Waehler’s goal has been to promote an appreciation for the complex nature (and great potential) of counseling psychology as an applied science.  This research base increases his personal efficacy which makes his own work, and the work of his students, more successful, and in turn, more satisfying.