Small businesses know the drill of a successful interaction with a customer:

Be ACCOMMODATING, AFFORDABLE and ACCESSIBLE. I wholeheartedly agree. However, I am wary of going too far in any one of these directions. Our business is based on healthy relationships–modeling what is appropriate and exploring what is not. Oftentimes clients who are anxious and in pain request an accommodation which doesn’t work for us…and we do it anyway. “Just this once” turns into a late appointment time that doesn’t fit our carefully cultivated schedule. “Forgot my checkbook” turns into one missed payment a month that turns into a large balance at the end of the year. You know this client. And, you know yourself. You didn’t go into this line of work to say, “NO”. In fact, your empathy and curiosity about the human condition allows you to say yes much more often. We gently coax our clients to go against the carefully defended boundaries that are hurting their growth while  keeping the boundaries that promote a good clinical relationship.


Well then, I’d like to add another “A” to our list. How about Aspirational? I saw an interview with the designer Tommy Hilfiger. Guess what? He didn’t mention accommodating. He did mention affordable and accessible. He’s banking on aspirational as the key to a long and happy relationship with his clients. Mr. Hilfiger recognizes that value in all ways is important and necessary to sustain a relationship. (And, possibly, it didn’t occur to him to be any more accommodating than to make sure his products show up on time, in stores and season after season!)


What is aspirational? Webster defines it as wanting more money, social position or a higher standard of living. Are you put off by including this in your goals for clients? Before you discard the idea, think about it this way. Our clients often want change that involves material and emotional well being. I’d like to include a higher standard of living as a goal of therapy, Defined by the client of course–and coaxed along by the therapist.

I want to think of my clients being aspirational in their own personal goals and I would like to be right there with them helping them to achieve those successes. Wouldn’t you?

And–saying no to a late Thursday night appointment to an anxious client won’t get in the way of those aspirations.