Read, instead of listen to, the abridged transcript of the podcast:
I've got a little bit of a joke for you today:
I hate change, but I also hate change. So if the US gets rid of pennies and nickels I'm not sure how I'll feel. (hahahaha)
Today I would like to talk about a question I got from a Client. She gave me permission to share her question (even though she will remain unnamed).
She asked me, “How is it that you're so supportive of me? I feel like all I've really ever shown you is the dark and negative sides of me and yet you're just always there.” Hmmm…good question!
My first feeling was how vulnerable she must have felt to ask me that. Did she wonder if I even liked her? She was brave too - what if I had said, “Um, it’s my job to make you feel that way.” “You pay me to support you.” How awful that would be for me to feel that way and for her to hear that! But, these are common fears that Clients have. Thankfully that is NOT what I thought or felt!
However I replied to her was in an honest way and I am not sure what my exact words were to her but it got me thinking that maybe giving more thought into my response would be helpful to my listeners.
It brought back to memory what I wrote in one of my first blog posts. It was “4 reasons why your counselor is not judging you”. I don’t know why I said “your counselor” but what I meant is why I am not judging you.
I listed the reasons as courage, humility, compassion and experience. Basically I believe it takes courage and humility for a client to even reach out for help and support.
I respect them for even making contact with me. That’s a big first step.
The second 2 reasons - compassion and experience. I have a heart to help you. I am always compassionate with where you are in your life. I have a lot of life experiences and if I have not been through similar circumstances, I’ve probably dealt with it with one of my clients AND I am always willing to learn something new from you. I don’t have to have gone through what you are going through to support you and encourage you.
With this client, and all my clients, I listen. I see her. I inquire about the things I need more information about. I challenge negative thinking. I sympathize and empathize with the tough parts of the story. I can get down in the pit but I have attached a safety wire to me before I get down there. I don’t plan to stay down there and my goal is for both of us to get out.
The whole time, I am not judging her. Those dark and negative sides that she referred to - those don’t keep me from seeing her. From seeing how wonderfully and beautifully created she is! I can still see her spirit. Her soul.
I want joy and peace and contentment for her. I want her to feel my acceptance of her - with whatever flaws she sees in herself. I’m not perfect. I appreciate when others overlook my faults and failures.
I have hopes for my clients but I don’t have expectations. Her growth or backsliding does not change my stance. I like my clients. I love them and I always want to continue to support them. I try to point out their good qualities and sometimes I have to convince them they they DO have good qualities and talents!
I want her to feel accepted just as she is. I want her to feel loved and “live loved”. Which reminds me of a book I appreciate. It’s called “Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely”. The author is Lysa TerKeurst. She is a Christian author, and for those that don’t align with a Christian faith, I hope you’ll bear with me. On page 94 of this book is something I underlined. Lysa cites an article from Dr. Aaron Ben-Zeev (forgive me if I pronounced that wrong!) wrote an article for “Psychology Today” about belonging.
I am going to read Lysa’s quote now: “Acceptance is like an antibiotic that prevents past rejection from turning into present-day infections. The need for belonging runs deep. The need to belong goes beyond the need for superficial social ties…it is a need for meaningful, profound bonding. A sense of belongingness is crucial to our well-being…The lack of belongingness causes various undesirable effects, including a decrease in the levels of health, happiness, and adjustment.”
Acceptance prevents your past moments of either being rejected OR not feeling accepted or supported from turning into a big bag of rocks that you are toting around all day!
We were created to belong and connect to others. We need real connection. Attachment to others. Maybe not “many” others but at least someone! Otherwise we are going to be sick, unhappy and out of balance.
There is a term called “Therapeutic alliance” in therapy. This is the bond between therapist and client. I forget the percentages but I do remember that this alliance is one of the key factors in client success and change.
If my client and I aren’t connected and she feels I am not supporting or accepting, that may leave her feeling terrible. The beautiful thing is that I find it really easy to form an alliance with my client. Thank God! I’ve heard from other counselors that this is really hard for them. I’ve heard from clients that they have found it really hard to find someone that they feel comfortable with, much less attached to.
Now there is also the other extreme (and very common scenario) of becoming so attached to your therapist that you can’t move forward. Google Kristen Bell’s video and song about how much she loves her therapist. It’s hilarious! I’m not afraid of clients becoming attached. It’s beneficial. Granted, I don’t want a stalker that wants to hurt me but I love connecting with my clients! I wish I could be “real life” friends with all of them but I know that it’s best for me to be a reliable and supportive place that they can come back to later in life if they need me.
So…how can you apply all of my rambling thoughts to your life?
- If you don’t feel supported by your therapist - move on. There is a difference between your therapist challenging you, pushing you and encouraging you to improve your life. You should still feel they accept you and want “better” for you.
- If you aren’t interested in counseling - fine - but do you need support from another person? A friend? A mentor? Keep an eye out for one. Or maybe you can start with being a friend or mentor to someone. What are your gifts and how can you use them? What brings you joy? Start there!
- If you have someone that supports you, I’m sure you are grateful for that. Thank them. Then pay it forward and support someone else. Then they will probably use that energy to support another.
You’re not alone. I know it may feel like it sometimes but it doesn’t have to be that way. What little step could you take today to not feel alone? Reach out. Look for someone with a smile - that’s always a good sign that they might have some extra love to give.
You are worthy. You are lovable. You are loved. Live Loved.
List of available blogs: