This week in supervision we discussed the therapeutic alliance. First the therapeutic alliance is critical as it establishes rapport with clients. It is a necessary element of developing a professional relationship and trust. It assists the counselor in getting more accurate information to be of assistance for the client.
Second, is the aspect of how one “shows up” in a session. As addiction professionals, our growth comes from being introspective of our reactions with our clients, both internal dialogue and outward expression of our experience. What response do you have to clients who have a similar active addiction path as yours? What about a different path? Do you have an awareness of a need to project a professional image? If so what is that experience about? Our greatest growth will come from noticing how we respond when sitting with a client.
Next, I asked “How does your past present itself today? How do you notice that your “stuff” is present so you don’t let that interfere with your best guidance and counseling with your clients?” The responses include noticing: internal dialogue, critical thinking; need to get validated, to intellectualize; need to dress in a certain way; being rushed; appearance of “book-smarts.” When asked of where that comes from, the response was protecting self from greater suffering including vulnerability, fear, uncertainty in my knowledge, skill or image. Well this is exactly where the new counselor should be – one of taking small steps, understanding the interaction between our self, our colleagues, our clients, and/or our supervisors, and discovering what new information is brought forth for clarity.
When asked what made the difference when they finally came into their recovery, these were the responses ~
Surrender and grace
Needed someone to show me that it could be done
Someone holding hope for me
I had to get desperate enough to want it and to surrender control
Someone who refused to give up on me.
Thus, in realizing their own resistance to clients who subtly reminded them of themselves, the addiction counselor comes to a new awareness, one of a Grace connection, a connection with compassion, where I can experience myself present for my client, and I can let go of self-identify to be present for my client, and in doing so, it may help them reduce the walls of their expectations, assumptions and resistance, and step into their own recovery path.
This is truly what is meant by leading with a heartfelt connection different than with a head connection. The head is logic, self-doubt, cognition, relying on external appearance and validation of skills. The heartfelt connect is compassion, observation, experience, listening for the story behind the words, acceptance, surrender and grace.
Homework: Ask self: When listening to my client, am I listening for understanding their story (leading with the heart), or am I listening to give a reply (leading from the head)? I would love to hear about your experience as you shift to a Grace Connection, a heartfelt approach.
I submit that when you grow from giving a reply to offering love, grace and compassion, you will truly experience a growth in your professional and therapeutic relationship with clients that you will celebrate.