I have new clients a lot – it feels like. I am in one placement where I might see a new client every six weeks (it’s up to the client if they want to stay after six weeks, and often they feel like they are ‘done’ by then).
And sometimes, a client comes who feels like they are telling ‘your’ story somehow. Not all of it, not all of the time, but they say the things you’ve said. Their history mirrors yours, or perhaps it almost does; perhaps there are parallels, if it’s not an exact copy. And my experience suggests that it is a lot easier to deal with these experiences when it’s a one-off. I remember a client of similar age to me who knew this, (unusual because most people think I’m about ten years younger than i am!) who referenced some tv that was on when ‘we’ were children, and i knew exactly what they meant. But I could bracket that because it’s a one-off that’s maybe not so important as the situation around that TV-watching. But sometimes, a client comes and it almost feels like they are telling your story. And they want your understanding. They want to know they aren’t alone.
That was an experience for me a few months ago now – a client talked about something in their life experience that hit my biggest buttons. The feelings they described about that experience could have been my words. And this was the subject of the hour. It was one of the hardest hours I’ve done, because you have to be able to bracket your experience, whilst leaving enough of yourself in the room to be fully present with the client. If you remove yourself from contact, your client is losing out. The client went from talking about that life experience to a physical effect it had in the present. They weren’t sure if I would understand, but it happened that it was my experience almost exactly (although for them the two things had stemmed from each other and for me they were separate). I considered what they were saying, and what they were asking, took a breath and said ‘yes. That is my experience also. It can be like…..’ It wasn’t a particularly big disclosure (it was around levels of physical comfort in a certain situation), but once the words were out, they felt right.
At the start of my journey, I would not have disclosed anything at all, attempting to be a blank slate. But the more I learn, the more I try and put ‘me’ in the room. I suspect that part of that sharing of myself there was an attempt at trying to compensate for having had to move so much of myself out of the conversation when I was bracketing. I wanted to ‘give something back’. I think that I was fairly careful in what I did and didn’t trample. But it can be very hard. For me it’s about, ‘this is my experience. from what you say, it sounds like similar may be the case for you. tell me more about that’ (I actually wouldn’t be that stereotypical about it, but it’s a quick shorthand!) In this instance, it worked. The client could see that i did have a real understanding on their comment and we moved forward to a place of understanding they had not yet seen. Sometimes, it can be really useful to ‘put yourself out there’.