We, as counselors, often view our work as a service to others. Like a calling. And we know that clients may have been hurt by those who were supposed to love them before they ever sit down on our sofa. The word love has had so much baggage added on over the many years humans have populated the planet. It has emotional meanings…cognitive meanings…spiritual meanings. It’s difficult to sometimes navigate the minefield of working with hurting clients…and offer love in a space that’s so sacred but also so treacherous.
But, what about the word L-O-V-E. Can we use it? Is it ok to say? Will we offend others? Is it professional? It is, after all, a basic human need and one that we all chase down even if we’re not aware that’s what we’re doing. Oh the subconscious is so powerful!source: whartonmagazine.com Besides the word ”worth,” LOVE is my favorite word to use when in session. When you review most psychological theories and investigate rapport building models, it’s all based on love right? We may not love others’ decisions, behaviors or feelings but we can most certainly show love to another human being. Especially one in pain. **And feel free to disagree with me! We as clinicians have so many paths to healing with clients in the room. My way isn’t the only way. This is just my perspective as I go about the business of treating the ill and the well. Continue reading, however, if you like this idea…
Here are some tips on how to love others as a counselor or incorporate this idea into your already thriving practice...
Love remembers. Love tends to the smallest detail. Follow up with clients in the first few minutes of a session on something they said last time they were in your office.
Love is an actionable behavior toward another person. Offer them something to drink & if they refuse but appear parched or struggling with a persistent cough, get it for them anyway. A lot of clients have difficulty with assertiveness.
Love is kind and patient. Share what you love about them as a person – frequently. (For example, “I love that you are always on time” or “I love how you respond to your children in here” or “I love your sense of style.”) No matter how small or how profound – express it. Don’t we all love a well-meaning & sincere compliment? Don’t we all love to be noticed & our efforts rewarded by others? It only takes a moment to share these positive reflections with clients as we treat their afflictions and ailments.
Love is a decision. Make sure you are giving and receiving love in your personal life outside the “room.” Do you have a stable support system? Are you loved by those close to you? Are you pouring in to the lives of those whom you care about? Sometimes an internal inventory followed up by any necessary changes in those areas can really help us open our hearts to clients who are often lacking in love and acceptance. We decide (annually, monthly, weekly, daily, momentarily) if we are going to give or receive love in our lives. When possible, always choose love.
Love is humble. Even when we don’t feel like it. Make amends. Resolve conflict. This can be a tough thing to do. And often requires a higher calling than we have in the moment. This is advice that’s easy to give but so often is so difficult to do. If you’ve ever sat with a couple in conflict you know what I mean. Additionally, when we’re working with clients who “split,” we might be on the receiving end of some scathing remarks, pure hatred turned our way, or perhaps a perception that we are emotionally invalidating when we aren’t! Clients come to us hurt and angry. Sometimes ready for a fight. Process with colleagues, a supervisor or in your clinical consult group. Take time to ride the wave of your own emotions and, if possible, arrive back at a place of empathy. Heck, send a note of apology for clients who are stuck in a place of distrust and share they had a negative experience with you. This person is hurting and our only response should be love.
I hope you have found these thoughts and ideas helpful. You probably already do them and this is knowledge that you’ve gained, like me, over many years of sitting with clients. This list may feel basic and you probably have more ideas to add. Please do so in the comments. I would love to see this forum grow with YOUR shared wisdom.