One of the great things about being a therapist is that I learn a lot from my clients too. While every person is different and brings a unique set of strengths and challenges into my office for a session, there are universal themes and processes that are similar. The repetition of the structure itself is useful in teaching me important truths about how to support and facilitate change. There is value in being curious and open to how I go about asking for what I need and want.
A good example of this happened one day when a client who was struggling with depression came in. She was frustrated with her husband and his unwillingness to help her with their twin daughters. She was a stay-at-home Mom and was feeling burnt out. She fantasized about having a weekend alone, even if it was to clean the house uninterrupted by a request for a snack or to break up a squabble over a toy. As she tried to talk to her husband about this desire, she presented the idea to him in the form of a suggestion that he take the girls to his parent’s house for a weekend. Apparently he was not open to this idea at all, but she gave me enough information as she relayed what happened to make me wonder if his resistance had more to do with how she was presenting her request. I suggested this and we role played her going back to her husband, being more upfront about what she needed (a break) and wanted (a stretch of time alone in their home ) and to be open to how he might be willing to make that happen. Sure enough, when she came back a few weeks later, she reported that when she and her husband discussed the situation again, what he had initially resisted was taking his daughters for the weekend to his parents. He did care about how she was feeling, and proposed taking the twins out of town to Asheboro for an overnight stay and a trip to the zoo. While not the more economical solution she was hoping for, nor completely addressing the larger pattern of not enough help from her husband, she did get a much needed respite from being a parent.
The idea of being flexible, of being open to having a conversation, of looking for how to understand myself or a situation instead of being rigid about doing things “my way” or being “right” are just a few examples of small but powerful ways to flow more easily in day to day living. I can be honest about what might not work for me but can add, “In what way can I help or be an agent of change in this situation?” instead of completely rejecting a request or refusing to be a part of a solution. How am I able to contribute to a win-win? “I agree with…” as a starting point rather than total resistance. It also helps to know what I really want and need in the moment and to be upfront about it with myself and whoever I am relating to.
I value slowing down, being curious, flexible and open to how little shifts in perception can often yield big results.