There is a visualization that I do with clients which involves having them visualize who in their life stands in front of them, behind them and on each side. They decide who surrounds them.
I was at a team meeting for one of my clients, which included me (her Art Therapist), her psychologist, her school counselor, her parents and her high school principal. We were all gathered at a table for the meeting. We are all good caring people who are invested in my client’s well being. However, because of our different roles, we all stand with her differently. I watched her slowly start to react and become activated by the conversation which of course was centered around how she could change. This is often how these meetings go, focusing on deficits. My primary concern is not her outer behaviour but on how to support and help her regulate her inner behaviour. What I am good at as a therapist is helping clients self regulate, slow down, stand in their place of power and safety and stay out of reaction. I do this by truly seeing, hearing and valuing them. I am helping her autonomic nervous system function in such a way that she will not be overwhelmed by those around her. That is where I stand.
Someone did that for me once a long time ago when I was in grade six. I was a very disconnected and dissociated child until a teacher saw me and encouraged me to write. I can’t remember much about her, but I do remember that she gave me permission to be. Someone thought that I was okay, just as I was. I felt free. She had helped my resistant, fearful body thaw. For the first time I felt valued. Because of that, I was free to change. With that encouragement I could stand my ground, be still, breathe and write.
I strive to give my clients that freedom. I know what it is like to be a child at meetings where the whole conversation is how I need to change when no one there is standing with me in a place where change can actually happen. Change takes trust, risk and energy. These things cannot build from focusing on what is wrong or lacking. Inner strength grows from feelings of self-esteem, self-worth and self-acceptance. When I, as a therapist give clients permission to “just be exactly as they are,” that opens the invitation to allow the body to make room for change as a natural forward movement not a forced agenda.