Ten sessions in, the work with your client is going well. Then suddenly they share a detail that makes you realise that the person at work they have issues with is someone on the fringes of your friendship group. Or worse, it’s one of your current or past clients. Variations on the ‘six degrees of separation’ phenomenon are a surprisingly common occurrence, especially for private practitioners with a busy practice. It gets even more complicated when you live and work in a rural community, says Catherine Havard, in her article in this issue, ‘Degrees of separation’.
She describes how she instinctively ‘compartmentalises’ the information a client has shared with her if they later serve her in the local shop, or turn up at the same social event. I’d be interested in your experiences, and whether you agree with Catherine that it is possible – in many cases – to work ethically with clients with whom you have a dual relationship.
We all have lives outside of our therapeutic encounters, and what happens to us in those lives can inevitably impact the work we do with clients. It’s one reason why we have a commitment under the Ethical Framework to take care of ourselves. Many of us come to therapeutic work after experiencing our own emotional challenges, and that can be a strength – as Marie Adams says in her article, ‘Recognising the wounded healer, it may be from a place of our own humanity and vulnerability that we do our best work for clients. But we can also struggle to acknowledge when we need help – research has shown it may be easier for therapists to be ‘wise and mature’ for others than for ourselves.1
"Many of us come to therapeutic work after experiencing our own emotional challenges, and that can be a strength"
The legendary trauma therapist Janina Fisher acknowledges a need to manage the drive to rescue in our ‘Big interview’ in this issue, a lesson she learned when one of her sons became addicted to drugs. Now she reminds herself not to take on her clients’ burdens with a mantra from Narcotics Anonymous: ‘Your role as a helper is to be things, not to do things.’ Wise words indeed
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Sally Brown, Editor