#16 Following the client's offerings is my recommendation for a way to lead from behind.
Using the Client Centred and Gestalt lens this time, I want to focus on a way to stay very connected to what a client says and does in session to get their goals at the center of what the time in session is focussed on by more precisly following their leads as they offer them. Then using the psychodynamic lens we can connect events, themes and experiences from the past to the present.
Sometimes to accomplish a more active level of listening, we may need to unhook our pre-selected focus about what we, or the client thinks, and the corresponding waiting for the confirmation to appear, whether to the client or to us and just float with them in some not knowing or just having bits and pieces of their story, not the whole thing yet. Maintaining this curious position enables us to be able to more closely follow even the very tiny or subtle pieces of their experience when we noticed them. So we initiate a very short space between when we notice something in the client's behavior, conscious and unconscious, big or little, intended to be shared or just slipped out. We offer our reflection of what we noticed and hold curiousity about it with the client out loud using words and sometimes gesture too. The purpose of this immediate feedback loop is to capture more than just the information contained in what we have observed, we are then able to also capture some of the behavioral context of what was shared, what it may mean to the client and how it sits within them in that moment. This is often a rare opportunity for we counsellors to be able to see the precipitating context right beside the behavioral event. When we are able to see these events and their connection, it can often help clients gain some valuable insights into their lives in the moment and make sesnce in ways that had previously not occurred to them.
This is not just active listening that I am speaking about, this can involve emotional mirroring on the counsellors part to get a more felt sence of what they are witnessing. It can involve attunement to a deeper level of energy that often accompanies intense experiences like traumas or as yet unexperienced grief. There is often so much important personal information that is held just beneath the surface in our somatic selves that becomes clearer with this additional level of a more precise focussed kind of 'just noticing' paired with a consent driven respectful curiousity. This approaches sets up a platform for doing psychotherapy with clients seeking deeper work. While it can still be informative for clients only seeking counselling dealing with conscious material only, it can help us as counsellors to understand at a deeper level some of the contributing factors influencing a client even when they do not wish to follow through to a deeper level. Consent is again a very important on-going process to use to get directions from our clients about their goals and how they want to use our help.
As we get deeper into our counselling careers, I have noticed that the things that I learn from seem more and more subtle, not obvious and glaring. This deeper attending that I am speaking about here is an example of that more nuanced attending behavior. I also want to be clear that I am not talking about interpreting a clients' behavior, it is a two step sequence of: noticing a behavior, conscious or unconscious, then capturing the sequence of discussion that immediately preceeded these behaviors noticed, then offering them together with curiousity and support for what it may mean to the client. And also consent driven confirmation of emotional safety and then a respectful question if they want to explore that experience or what they might want to do at that moment.
All of this is to show you what I mean by my statement that I prefer to lead from behind in what I think is a very client centered way. There are definitely times when we need to lead from the front and be able to be leading by giving information, doing some psycho-educational information well timed and precisely delivered. There are also times in crisis when we need to act in a leadership role, and there are also many more opportunities like this that present themselves to be able to let them show us what they need, what is important to them and how best to support their journey. This process is not intended to remove anything from your skilled approaches, it is intended to add yet another way of being skillful in how you respond to what they are offering. I hope this will be helpful.
I have not yet decided what my next blog will focus on, I am going to let this next quarter of teaching show me something. It has been a very unusual year full of unprecidented global events, placing personal restrictions of all kinds on all of us. Mother nature has also been very strong in her responses to what we are doing to her world, and she is not yet finished. So my advice until I will return in April is: stay safe, stay warm and stay connected to those you value, Ciao, David