Help clients overcome “yeah but” syndrome

A therapist takes notes while her client sits with his chin resting on a hand

Tips for when your client has a “yeah but” mindset that’s holding them back.

Fear can cause a client to have a “yeah but” attitude. Here’s how to help.

Focus on success to build motivation

Fear of failure – or success – can sometimes take over your client’s thoughts and lead to inaction.

Imagination is the key to change. So ask your client to picture achieving their goal. This can help them relax and think more clearly about overcoming their barriers.

Suggest to your client that they turn a “Yeah but” statement to “Yeah and”. This new phrase can help open their mind to think more positively and creatively.

Ask your client what they’d advise another person in their situation. This removes the pressure of any personal issues they may be facing, and they may discover their hidden strengths.

Address the barriers

Your client may not know about all the support that’s available. These handy tips can help your client work through specific barriers.

Consider whether they need further support

If your suggestions don’t seem to be helping, keep in mind that there could be a deeper problem such as:

  • attention-seeking
  • self-doubt
  • mental health issues.

Your client may be staying in their comfort zone to reduce stress, or lacking the confidence to take new steps. You can point them to resources for managing stress or anxiety.

If appropriate, consider recommending counselling to help them overcome underlying problems.

Find out more


  • Frazier, B, ‘The "Yes But" Syndrome: Staying in Your Dysfunctional Comfort Zone’, 27 October 2014, (
  • Khan, Z, training manager, Customer Contact Group, TEC, interview September 2019.
  • Peterson, D, Barnes, A and Duncan, C, ‘Fighting Shadows: Self-stigma and Mental Illness Whawhai Atu te Whakamā Hihira’, Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand, 2008, (
  • Tabaka, M, ‘5 Actionable Steps to Overcome Negative Thinking’, 12 June 2017, (

Updated 25 Sep 2019