The Mirror Effect

In over 20 years of working with individuals and groups, I have often been asked, and asked others, to reflect on something. I expect them to think about the process for themselves, their assessment, their feelings, their thoughts and ideas etc.

When asked for my reflections, I talk about everything in my mind and body related to that issue.

Obviously, I also use the skill of reflecting. The skill of reflecting is exactly what it says on the tin – reflecting back to the client what they have expressed. It might be echoing their words; mirroring their words or posture; re-stating what they have just said, for emphasis or clarification; or paraphrasing.

It’s about being a mirror. And mirrors reflect exactly what’s there. No more. No less.

So the skill of reflecting does not mean I use leading questions, my opinions or assessment, diagnosis, my thoughts or ideas, or anything else that is not in the mirror.

But it takes practice to reflect back something a client has said without adding something of my own.

The skill of reflecting enables me to stay where the other person is; to stay with those feelings, emotions that are being expressed; to stay with what is, until or unless they explore further what is important for them.

Reflecting is for the client. And enables my sense of empathy at being exactly where the client is and experiencing it with them at that moment.

My reflections on the process are for myself. For my notes. For supervision. For my journal.

The two processes are different, and it’s not always easy to define the difference or describe something that becomes so familiar.

It came to me a light bulb moment one day.

Or was it a “mirror moment”?!

A Question Of Responsibility

How many times have you, like me, heard or used phrases such as “He made me do it”; or “She makes me feel like this”.

Of course, this is about responsibility. Taking the responsibility that is ours. Or not, as the case may be.

Let me get my thoughts straight here. It’s not the event or the person who is responsible for how I feel right now. There is an event or experience, and I respond in a particular way. It is possible to choose how I respond rather than allowing the other person or event to take control in our mind of my feelings.

The Online Certificate in Counselling Course includes an exercise requiring students to recount a personal experience demonstrating ownership and immediacy throughout.

OK here goes……even tutors need to work through these processes!

“I’ve just given up my allotment. Well, actually, I was required to do so by the local “allotment police” (also known as the local councillors) who told me I wasn’t keeping it up to standard.

I wasn’t. I loved my allotment, nettles and all. But the “allotment police” felt it wasn’t enough.

The problem was that even with a half plot, it was just a bit too much to manage on my own.

There is a strict code of conduct, and I failed at it.

So I cried when the time came for the ending. And for a time I was angry with the “allotment police”. I was angry with myself for sabotaging my allotment tenancy. I failed them; and myself; and that beautiful patch of ground. And it hurts.

I bit off more than I could chew, as the saying goes. I admit it.

It’s not easy letting go. Writing this is not easy. I’ve lost my allotment and the community with it. It’s not easy starting over again.”

Try out the exercise for yourself. Pause next time you catch yourself saying “they made me feel like that”.

Be responsible.

 

For What It’s Worth…

In the Advanced Certificate in Life Coaching, there’s a statement to which students are asked to respond: “Therapy is for those who are not functioning well in life and need to address emotional issues.”

Woe betide the student who simply writes “True”!…. Come on – Think about it!

Now, the reason I say that is, whilst it is undoubtedly true that if someone is not functioning well emotionally therapy may well be a good process to engage with, but therapy surely is much more than that.

But how much is it worth?

Therapy usually involves attending weekly sessions over a period of time, usually paying a significant amount for each session, or at very least with low-cost services a percentage amount in proportion to income, and a commitment to working through potentially traumatic issues.

But remember, there are many different forms of therapy. CBT may require relatively short-term attendance. NHS provision is usually for 6-8 sessions. Or, of course, there’s the years of therapeutic process for those that require or engage with it.

And, if you are in therapeutic training there will almost certainly be a requirement to undertake a minimum amount of therapeutic work during the course of that training.

I have been in therapy during training, and before training, and at various times beyond training. Largely because I think my life is worth it. My clients are worth it. Because if I don’t engage with my own processes and issues, what use am I to clients?

Therapy is also used for personal development, so those who have very few emotional issues may well engage with therapy as much as they might use meditation, yoga, journaling etc etc.

Therapy may well mean a sacrifice on various levels – but are you worth it?!

Over 20 years ago when I was training I worked with a colleague who managed to do a variety of courses to Diploma level without engaging in one single session of therapy for himself.

What will you say when your client asks if you have ever been in therapy?

My view is that if I am asking clients to engage with the deepest inner journey of their lives, how can I do that without being prepared to engage with that myself?

It enriches my practice. I have probably learned as much from my therapists (and supervisors) over the years as I have in classroom training.

It enriches my life.

My clients are worth it. And I am worth it.

What’s it worth to you?

The Day It All Went Wrong…

Hmm – now which particular day of the many days it all went wrong should I write about?!

Perhaps it’s the day I turned up for a therapy session as a client and I got no response on the door entry phone from my therapist. Eventually I managed to get the caretaker of the building to let me in. I went up to the top floor and sat in the waiting room and waited…. I listened at the door (shame on me) to try to work out whether my therapist was actually still with a previous client. I sat down again.

And then I looked at the clock……and realised that despite the fact that I had had a session on a Thursday afternoon at 2.00pm for months….the clock said 1.15pm.

I rushed out of the building. I wandered round town. I had to move the car from the one hour parking space.

Eventually 2.00pm came, and I rang the door entry phone and my therapist answered and buzzed me in. I used up half my therapy session on that distress.

And I got a parking ticket for overstaying the one hour parking space by 5 mins.

Or perhaps it’s the day I had my usual journey round the ring road of my local city to get to my placement venue to see my clients. Except on that day there was an accident that I hadn’t known about and the road was gridlocked. And I was clearly going to be late for my client. I didn’t have my client’s contact details with me, and the receptionist had gone home for the evening.

By the time I eventually arrived, my second client was also waiting.

Life happens. Even to therapists. And to clients. And even to therapists who are clients.

So be realistic. And remember it’s not the event that’s the issue, it’s how you deal with it.

I survived all the distress. My therapist survived my ramblings. My clients survived the re-arrangements.

So will you.

The Alchemy of the Therapeutic Space

The art (or science, depending on your viewpoint) of alchemy is about taking something that is blackened, dirty and seemingly worthless and creating something golden, sparkling and precious.

The thing about the alchemical process though, is that you can’t obtain that golden nugget at the end without first going through the fire in the crucible.

And that’s therapy in a nutshell.

For some the challenge will be too great to even start. Some will engage so far and no further. Some will see it through to the end.

The crucible of that alchemical process is not only physical but also emotional. It’s the therapeutic space, the room in which the work is undertaken. But it’s also the relationship between client and therapist that becomes the melting pot for re-creation. The room is the physical container and the relationship is the emotional container, if you like.

It means, of course, that there are two people involved in the process – the client and the therapist.

It means as the client, there will be challenges and tough times involved on the journey to that golden nugget.

It means as the therapist, your own life, your own self will be touched by that process.

It means that the therapist has to be as much an active and integral part in the process as the client. Of course, the roles and experiences will be different. But both are essential elements.

But it is never about learning a set of techniques and tools that can be applied objectively in order to produce a specific outcome, without being also involved in and affected by that process.

For some the challenge will be too great to even start. Some will engage so far and no further. Some will see it through to the end.

What about you?

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