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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

Managing Expectations

That’s the point

There are few hip hop duos who, if they never released another album, I could be satisfied with for the content they’ve already shared with the world. Among this scare number is Little Brother, consisting of Rapper Big Pooh and Phonte.

In my opinion, the North Carolina pair has done more for hip hop than what the subculture deserves. Their music is the sort I could listen to with people, both young and old, which isn’t a common aspect for many of today’s rappers.

I think that part of what makes the duo so impactful is that they address relevant subject matter, selectively choose producers whose beats will complement the ambiance of their albums, and both their solo and collective projects incorporate humor with the ability to address challenging topics.

From their 2007 album Getback, Little Brother released a song entitled “Dreams,” with an intro from Phonte stating:

Real story. Like, I was… I was playin’ this… this record for a friend of mine, y’knahmsayin’. We was just chillin’. I was just playin’ her the album and like, she was like, “Yo! I love the record… record is incredible. But, y’know, something’s different. Y’knahmsayin’, somethin’… it just ain’t the same.” I said, “Nigga, that’s the point!”

The song essentially outlines the difference between a dream and a goal, as the chorus states, “Momma, I got dreams, but dreams don’t keep the lights on.” In this regard, my late stepmom was the one who told me, “You can dream in your sleep, but a goal is what you work towards when you’re awake.”

Usually, the effort a person expends when working towards a mental health goal is met with discomfort, as I regularly hear complaints like, “This isn’t easy!” Client, that’s the point!

Managing expectations

I work with clients who often have lofty dreams. Patiently, I assist them by managing expectations concerning how the process of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) actually functions—chiefly through goal attainment.

Often, I hear grievances, such as, “This is hard,” not uncommonly punctuated by unhelpful rhetoric a person has heard from social media sources. Still, it’s difficult for me to compete with utopian dreams.

Commonly, an objection will arise with someone declaring something like, “Well, I heard on TikTok […],” followed by an unrealistic proposition about how the process of change works. I encourage clients to consider that I’m not a social media therapist, nor do I support much of the “influencer” superficial quick fixes I’ve heard about.

Rather, I use the ethical practice of managing expectations— communicating so that all involved have a clear understanding of what to expect and when to expect it. I do this in a number of ways.

First, I direct clients to the Questions and Answers portion of my website, regarding a section entitled “Is Therapy an Easy Process?” in which I state:

Just as it isn’t necessarily comfortable to grow your bank account by denying yourself frivolous spending, grow as a couple by working though challenges romantic partnerships face, or grow to accept the loss of a loved one by experiencing grief—growth through the mental health process can be challenging.

I clearly indicate to clients that the process of psychotherapy can be difficult. Typically, the people in a person’s support network may refrain from pointing out areas of growth opportunity.

For example, in my personal life, I may see person X struggling with romantic relationships. Do I risk highlighting the behavior I think is causing person X to experience a repeated lack of success, all while potentially jeopardizing our relationship?

It’s simply easier for friends, family members, and others who care about us to simply ignore such matters. However, when clients seek mental health services from me, I consider it a responsibility to share my observations, and this can be an uncomfortable process.

Of this, in a blogpost entitled Therapeutic Safety, I stated:

What I offer at Hollings Therapy, LLC is the ability to explore what others likely refrain from telling you. Loved ones, friends, family members, and others simply may not want to violate your perception of safety, so they may not relay what you need to hear.

In therapy, though I may be responsible for identifying unhelpful and unhealthy beliefs which may not serve person Y, it is incumbent upon the client to take accountability for the work done outside of session. This is not necessarily an easy process.

Second, I point clients towards the Ares of Practice part of my website, in which I declare:

With an aim not to help you feel better, though to get better, you can work towards a healthier life by learning tolerance, using acceptance, and building resilience.

Feeling better during or immediately after therapy is an experience that relates to catharsis—the process of releasing, and thereby temporarily providing relief from, unpleasant emotions. However, catharsis is short-lived and therefore not the aim of an REBT intervention.

Helping clients get better means providing tools clients may use and retain so that they may ultimately become their own therapist, of sorts. For those who are curious about the implications of this method for my practice—yes, I’m purposely working myself out of a job.

Third, I invite clients to consider my blogpost entitled Nope, in which I express:

I market my approach to mental health treatment using two concepts repeatedly mentioned herein:

1) I seek to help improve the level of each client’s functioning.

2) I seek to help improve the quality of life for each of my clients.

By “functioning,” I’m merely referring to one’s ability to perform a desired task. For some people, that’s simply showering once a week—whereby they may not have showered all month.

For others, it may be losing weight, transitioning from one job to another, getting married, or addressing substance use or abuse issues. If person Z is able to improve the level of functioning he has by way of REBT practice, our first treatment goal will have been met.

Largely dependent on the element of functioning, by “quality of life,” I’m referencing one’s subjective standard of health, tolerance, acceptance, and contentment. Note, this measure doesn’t relate to common allusions of living one’s “best life,” “following your bliss,” or the “pursuit of happiness.”

I invite my clients to consider a “good enough” standard of living, as any improvement to one’s quality of life beyond this default objective is purely an added benefit. This is an attainable standard for many of the clients with whom I’ve worked over the years.

Finally, I encourage clients to understand that my approach to REBT generally relates to converting unhelpful beliefs to effective new beliefs, as I mentioned in a blog entry entitled Transitioning Beliefs:

Placing the inflexible condition on myself, “I will only accept myself if I’m this or that,” isn’t helpful. Heck, it’s not likely a healthy condition, at that. Therefore, while I’d prefer to be comfortable with what I believe about myself, I can unconditionally accept myself as I am. In so doing, I don’t deceive myself by pretending there’s a quick fix or that I’m always going to be happy. Rather, I can tolerate discomfort, accept what is, and lead as fulfilling a life as possible before my time on earth comes to an end.

I’m not promoting dream-chasing with clients. I’m not “curing” or “fixing” them either. A person with a mood disorder, or one with a personality disorder, will still have the condition after going through the psychotherapeutic treatment process with me.

However, the challenging and oft uncomfortable process of mental health treatment can be rewarding, in that I assist clients with the ability to better manage symptoms related to their diagnosed conditions or matters related to their unique situations.

If your social media-influenced perception of my challenging approach to treatment may not be the same as your unfounded expectations—or if you behave in a noticeably different manner, no longer recognizing yourself after use of REBT techniques—then, that’s the point!


Ending his verse on “Dreams,” Phonte states:

So please, miss me with that conscious shit. I spent many a sleepless night, because of it. Until I had to shake that shit off and reach the conclusion that every now and then you gotta ask yourself, “Do you really wanna win or just look good losin’?” (Woah, woah, woah) It’s no illusion, yes, yes.

People sometimes consciously deceive themselves about how mental health treatment should, must, or ought to be conducted. They can miss me with that.

Like Phone advocates, every now and then, it may be worth inquiring about whether or not one truly seeks a higher level of functioning and improved quality of life by facing discomfort, or if one simply wants to present the appearance of doing the work though instead seeking comfort.

I, too, have dreams, but dreams don’t keep the lights on. Therefore, I seek out challenging goals, face discomfort, and benefit as a result of taking the steps necessary for goal attainment while I’m awake. Are you prepared to walk a similar path to success?

If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.

As the world’s foremost old school hip hop REBT psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.

At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!

Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW

Photo credit, photo by: Jati Lindsay fair use


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