Here’s to You and Here’s to Me: A Letter to Single Session and Walk-In Therapists
July 28, 2015
My colleague, Patti, comments occasionally about the number of clients, students and therapists I have worked with over the past 25 years. She has been pushing me to write a book on what I have learned as she and others know that I am on the end side of finishing my therapist career. Towards this end, she has even given me a book and a notebook, which serve as reminders. This has led me to think about what I bring to therapy and, in turn, what clients bring to me.
Then along came the Wood’s Homes blog which now gives me the opportunity to write about what stands out for me in the practice of therapy in a walk-in clinic.
One of the aspects that stand out for me is the two-way nature of therapy. Often we think about what we gave our clients and occasionally think about what they give to us. These are a list of ideas that clients have given me over the years of practicing at walk-in therapy. Behind each of them is a story or stories that led to my learning.
- Let your clients be responsible for their own learning as only they can know what is important to them. We can only guess, unless we ask.
- Keep an open mind as you will often be surprised by the concerns that people want to discuss and change.
- Do not get too sure or knowing as you do not want to stereotype or categorize clients.
- Respect your client’s story so they feel understood, but don’t make their problems your own.
- Look for differences between people. Discuss how differences connect them.
- Remember we are hearing one story from our clients. There are other ones to either hear or create.
- Colleagues/team members can be both invigorating and time consuming. Work on their strengths and avoid ongoing verbalization that takes up space.
- Patience is needed during sessions. Give clients the time to express their story and don’t rush to a conclusion.
- Learn a set of frameworks for different issues so that you have some direction to take when presented by clients. A general model of therapy needs the added knowledge of specific topics to fashion appropriate change.
- If you don’t ask, you won’t know.
- Don’t overload clients with ideas. Too much has the same impact as none.
- When supervising behind the one-way mirror, call in five times or less. When it gets to five or more, you are running the session from behind the mirror and the therapist in the room is negated.
- Options are important for the clients and yourself; options lead to a feeling of being freed up.
- Think and respond with an “and” response as there is more than one solution or answer to a social or relational concern. This avoids seeking “right” answers.
- Let the process of therapy evolve: you can have a plan, but the session will have a ‘life’ of its own.
- Don’t let the fascination of a particular intervention lead to ignoring safety or the clients’ goals.
- Have the client leave with one more thing than they came with.
- Clients make their own choice about what is important and it is likely not the same as yours.
- Be transparent. We ask lots of questions. Allow our clients to ask any in return.
- Know what you like about the person you are seeing. Appreciation is important in connecting and suggesting change.
- No interaction is “objective”. Know your biases and use them as part of the interaction.
- Remember that you also get to ‘choose’ what to hear and what you do not want to know. In the beginning it is information until understanding and meaning is made.
- Work to make every session interesting for your client and yourself.
- Treat each session and person as unique. Be able to express that perspective to them and yourself.
- Use yourself when feeling confused. Think about what you are feeling in the session. What you feel may also be what your client feels.
I would be interested to hear if anyone has been thinking about these same ideas and what others I may have yet to learn - please comment below.