Change isn’t always welcome, especially if it isn’t chosen. We are inclined to cling to the old ways, perhaps through fear of the unknown, fear of failure, or fear of losing our relevance. But maybe the pandemic can give us a different view of change. Perhaps change can bring new energy and perspective to our work, ultimately benefitting the client.
John Wheeler’s article on solution-focused practice prompted me to wonder how many sessions of therapy a client needs, who decides and in whose interest. The answers probably depend on your theoretical model, personal preference and clinical setting. But it made me think about changing, or at least adapting, my old ways.
John explains how clients, including clients with complex, entrenched difficulties, can achieve meaningful and long- lasting change in relatively few sessions. Solution- focused practice calls for a particular mindset. It also challenges some of the common assumptions about therapy – and it won’t suit everyone. But it’s hard to deny the appeal of an approach that so clearly recognises and fosters the autonomy of the client.
Elaine Nicholson has adapted her counselling model to better fit and support clients with autism, or with experience of living with someone with autism. Elaine, who was awarded an MBE in 2016, was motivated in part by her own circumstances.
How about learning a new language to communicate with clients? Metaphor can offer a valuable insight into the client’s inner world, as long as therapists mind their metaphorical language. In his article, Dr Steve Killick stresses the importance of the client’s voice, urging therapists to tune in to the client’s understanding and interpretation of metaphor. Only then can the clinician elaborate and extend the metaphor to co-construct with the client a shared and intimate language.
Colours offer another new way to help clients communicate their experience. Andrew Thomas writes about the development of the Rainbow Map. It’s a therapeutic tool that can aid clients to express and understand their intellectual, emotional and physical responses to events that trigger survival modes of behaviour. Andrew also explains how the identification of a trigger flag and a trigger cycle can help clients to regulate and manage their survival responses. The colours, like the metaphors, give the client a voice. They also create a shared language and therefore a shared understanding between client and therapist.
What is our shared understanding of the word ‘narcissist’? Someone with an inflated view of their own importance? Someone who thinks they are always right and brooks no challenge? Someone who demands constant admiration and attention? Dr Jan McGregor Hepburn argues that our definition of narcissism is actually a definition of pathological narcissism. But Jan’s infant observations have convinced her that narcissism isn’t all bad. In fact, she believes that healthy narcissism is essential to our development, because it allows us to take pride in ourselves and our achievements, to appreciate others and to accept appreciation. Similarly, there are positive aspects to echoism – think of listening to others, taking their needs and interests into account. If we can be flexible in our understanding of narcissism and echoism, we can perhaps be flexible in our understanding of our clients and ourselves.