At the ADPCA conference, there was a moment where someone was talking about the person-centred approach, the true person-centred approach – of not directing the client at all, of letting the client talk about what they wanted, whether YOU thought it was relevant or not. So you might know that a client has been sexually assaulted; that may be the reason they gave for coming to your office, but week to week, they talk about what they have done that week. The person speaking never asked further – they let the client lead the direction, and that was how it went.
I had two strains of thought. Part of me was thinking about just how person-centered it was, and part of me was thinking ‘but if you’d just asked the client about WHY they were there, they might have talked about it – they might have moved on from the place they were in when they came’. I was lucky in that the person who was talking wasn’t at all defensive when asked about why, and was able to talk further. I have nothing but admiration for that person, but still couldn’t move that small niggly feeling.
Until recently, when someone said to me that they felt it was a good thing that they were going to therapy, even if they were just talking about their week, because just having someone there to talk to helped them to feel better, to know that they were listened to, and it reminded me of Jerold Bozarth’s pre-conference talk about how HE found the person-centred method because he was giving inpatients space to speak, and found that they were getting better ‘of their own accord’ (better in the eyes of the hospital – I’m not making any kinds of claims on what ‘better’ or ‘worse’ might look like).
So there – two ‘big’ names in the field, suggesting that ‘giving clients space, *works*’, and now I have my own experience to back that up. And it’s something I need to hold on to, the next time I am with a client and I am inclined to direct the flow in any way; it is person-centred not to direct. I will make ‘progress’ if I don’t direct (even if this is just my own learning).