One of my tutors at Uni made the comment, that as a psychotherapist we often ‘get the clients that we need.’ What he meant was that, the material that clients bring often reflects what we ourselves need to develop. It’s something that’s definitely been in the air recently.
The sense of “being enough” is very much part of my personal reflection at the moment. As part of the work I do, feelings of inadequacy and helplessness regularly emerge and there are definitely times where my own internal voice is saying something like “Who do you think you are? You can’t even do this for yourself….never mind them!!” When my clients feel stuck. I can feel stuck. When clients feel helpless to take action. I feel the same. When clients feel overwhelmed…I get it, I really do…I’m in it with them!!
I wouldn’t be much of a coach or therapist if I couldn’t pick up or tune into the feelings of another, would I? Picking up feelings, the emotional field, the felt sense of a situation is pretty much the coach super-power that I’m most proud of. But it can be a double edged sword. My feelings are their feelings. My felt sense of their situation is probably their felt sense of it. A big part of the personal development as a coach and psychotherapist is learning to recognise when our patterns come into play, and how to disentangle our feelings from those of the client.
If I can observe my feelings at a distance, I can give myself the chance to talk about them. My feelings are a great source of data about their situation. To talk about the untalkable. To mention the unmentionable. To express the sense of guilt or shame I’m feeling about feeling stuck…is that what it’s like for them? To express the sense of overwhelm that’s like a fog engulfing me….is that what it’s like for them?
It can be hard to distinguish between what’s my stuff and what’s theirs. At times, my inner critic leaps into action, as I catch the feelings that my clients are experiencing, and I assume that what I’m feeling is somehow about me. So, working to observe the emerging feelings and emotions gives me a great insight into the client’s world and what things are like for them.
There aren’t any magic wands for this sort of stuff and there are no quick fixes. It’s pretty much part of the work that we do as coach therapists…and much as it can be hard to navigate it’s what makes the work so interesting and rewarding, for me anyway!!
If you’re a coach or a counsellor/psychotherapist reading this here’s what I think is useful to remember;
- I’m fallible. I’m an imperfect work in progress, just like every other person out there. I’m not the setting out to be the type of coach or counsellor who has all the answers or who is going to provide solutions or advice about ‘what I think you should do.’ I am of best use to my clients when I am OK about what and who I am and that I have a deeply held sense of ‘being enough.’
- The feelings that emerge from client work help me to really experience what things are like for my client. Much as I might have a sensitivity to feeling not enough (which I definitely do), my hunch is, if I can observe carefully, my feelings showing me how my client is feeling. A useful question in those moments might be something like “what are they (the client)inviting me to feel here?”
- Professional supervision is absolutely critical to my self-care and personal development, which ultimately helps me to be the best I can be as a coach or counsellor. Supervision is that t space to reflect on the patterns that are emerging in the client work and to explore how that’s both helped and hindered my practice as a coach therapist.
Clients can put us a pedestal, assuming that we’re somehow ‘sorted’ and that we don’t experience the same fears, worries and concerns that they do…how wrong they are!! We’re all in this together, this thing called life. We’re all, no matter who we are, just doing the best we can with what we have.
Personally, I’m starting to let the idea sink in that; if I can model ‘being enough’ perhaps my clients will learn to do the same for themselves. If I can accept that I’m human; make mistakes and am an imperfect work in progress perhaps my clients can learn to think about themselves in the same way.
It feels like a big job….but I do love a challenge!!!