One of the anxieties I often see expressed in student work is that of remembering the details of a client’s story. Who did what, when, how etc? And what was the partner’s, child’s, parent’s name?
What emerges may be a long list of events, situations, emotion, action and reaction that is difficult to hold on to. Sometimes, the story itself is not the focus.
What matters most is the feeling, the experience. The value of what is not said but profoundly expressed nonetheless.
So you forget a name or a detail. Use it to reflect on how and why it happened. Does it reflect some aspect of the relationship for the client? Does it inform you, as therapist, about your management of your own process with that particular client or that particular experience they are sharing? How might you use it to engage in that very real “here and now” moment with your client?
But even as a therapist, I am still only human. And a part of being human means that sometimes I forget.
I once used the wrong name for a client’s partner at least 3 times over the space of a couple of sessions. The client was counting. She pointed it out to me.
I acknowledged it and apologised.
And then I reflected that it wasn’t something I would usually do, certainly not repeatedly. So I shared that with the client. I reflected back to her that it felt as if I couldn’t quite place who he was for my client – who they were in relationship together.
Silence. My stomach had butterflies. This was going out on a limb.
Dropping the anger and annoyance, and with a deep sigh, she said she didn’t know him as a person anymore. He wasn’t the person he was at the start of their relationship. She didn’t know who he was. And she didn’t know how to relate to him anymore.
So then….. I brought it back to the relationship between myself and the client. I wondered (out loud) if she therefore stopped sharing herself with others, and with me, if she wasn’t sure who they were, how they feel, what they think….
The therapeutic process and relationship moved to a whole different level at that point.
A process of re-membering – putting someone back together again. Putting the relating back into relationship on all sides.
Be a therapist. But remember to stay human as well.