Creative Connections & Client Communications
“Counseling Insights” for April 28, 2004What’s to Remember?
So many times, I’ve heard back from clients, a week, a month, a year or two … even more… after a consultation, mentioning specific ideas and phrases we had shared: “I remember your saying ……; I’ve never forgotten that, and it made all the difference in the world!” --Just ten minutes ago, I received this message: “I derived a lot of strength from what you said last year and I think about your words constantly. Constantly!”
We all experience this in different areas of our life: I still tell the story of how my doctor cured the seemingly death-knell bronchitis I contracted some years ago in Brazil; what he said to me and the medicines he gave me. Practically every time that I get into my car, I recall a practical truth my father gave me when he was teaching me to drive in 1951! I still remember a remedial comment –strong advice-- a German opera conductor gave me in October 1958 –46 years ago!!
So much of our development is made up of input like this from authorities in touch with our life. They cared; they invested what they said with what they knew about living and they customized the observation to our individual needs. We took it in and lived with that energy forever forward. Nice.
This is what can happen in a consultation: something is arrived at in mutual discussion, to which we are led by the guideline measurements. A deduction is made; a light comes on or is finally seen. We sum it up and, for the client, it is a memorable building block for further development.
How counsel develops From the very start of the consultation, there should be the sense of going somewhere.with the talk, with the presentation. The conversation will be deep, candid, fair, and sharply ego focused on the client. It must have a goal; it must lead to the comfort of understanding, a tactical sense of empowerment, and the alluring sense of future development. [[Please read this paragraph again, slowly.]]
As the conversation develops, don’t be afraid about taking a few notes on key concepts as you or your client illuminates them; bringing those notes together later in the consultation will be very effective. Listen for key phrases (usually your client’s value judgements of experiences); be aware of how these insights might repeat themselves several times at different ages of development: you are hearing echoes of a basic theme, sometimes quite a frustrating one focused early in development by parental conditioning or modeling.
For example, you may be hearing a woman (or man) say over and over again, perhaps with slightly different words each time, “Well that relationship blew up just then, as you said, because … well, he just wasn’t up to snuff;” then later, “We were engaged and then that fell apart; my mother really didn’t approve of him, and I got to understand that too;” and then again, “I’ve just stopped having relationships, really, because, well, because no one really fits the bill. It happens all the time.”
Now, what can you make of this to be helpful? Your client is in a routined lonely position. Her idealized expectations not being met is not the real concern; the real concern could very well be that the woman’s father figure was either totally out of the picture all during the early years or was there and passive, insulated by the mother’s constant beatification of him. Your client grows up thinking that the father is ultra perfect although frighteningly remote, and that she simply doesn’t deserve the father’s attention and love. –Your client can feel that she will never attract any man; she rejects them before they ignore, abandon her. The father issue must be settled first before other men can get through the door.
How would you talk about this with your client? Are you ready for themes like this? Have you done your relationship counseling study? Will you take your client to the place that says something like, “Yes, I can now realize that I had nothing to do with my father’s aloofness. THAT’s how his father had been to him. And my mother, well she was just making the best of a bad situation; I can just imagine their relationship together!
And then, perhaps your comment: “Also, we can add that you know very well, down deep, that you don’t need to project your mother’s values on these men you meet. They have their individual assets and beauty, and you CAN enjoy that … without jeopardizing the relationship with your father that you longed for. After all, that’s long gone. He’s dead. You’re not!”
--This kind of discussion should come down to something memorable, some phrase or image, or sense that will be carried forward by your client. “That’s long gone. He’s dead. You’re not!” is very powerful; it’s short, cryptic, easily retained and recalled, and says so much about letting the past go and getting on with a fresh future. It probably fits to a tee the elements of your discussion or you wouldn’t have come up with it! Your client’s tacit approval would be seen in her eyes … in a moment of deep silence.
The analytical conversation could have taken a different path: “You never saw any affection between your mother and father. Yet she held him up as a paragon of excellence. Well, with her domination of your thoughts, as we have seen over and over again, might it be that she would never want you to have a relationship that she couldn’t have? It seems she was forcing you to live out her drama of frustration. --Oh my: how sad. But, you know?, you can really understand this … and forgive her … even though she’s dead. –Remember, you’re alive and kicking [a deliberate rebirth image] … and you can finally start living your own values right now!”
The final phrases of the two summaries are memorable. Your client will carry them into the future within the architecture of advance you map out for her chronologically. –This deep change will take time, of course, but the guideline of your memorable summary will be extraordinarily helpful.
During the consultation, keep asking yourself where are we going, and when you get there, pay attention to your speech. Allow the drama of deduction to arrive too. Pride yourself on the turn of phrase; the skill to do that grows with attention to it and practice with it.
Next Update: May 31, 2004