|For students and practitioners of complementary and alternative therapy everywhere.|
Expectations Of Our Clients?
What Do We Expect From Our Clients? by Jane Thurnell-Read
One of the most important skills for us as therapists is to manage our expectations of our clients. If we do this well, we can really enhance the healing and the growth process for them.
It’s important that we learn to judge how much to expect of different clients. We cannot expect the same of everyone – people are at different places in their journey of self-discovery, but it is important that we don’t just let the client set the agenda, reacting passively to what they want. Some people need to be challenged more in order to grow and change, and some need to be held gently while they recover enough to move forward.
New clients may come to see us because they want our help to rearrange the furniture, to make their lives more comfortable. We have to assess whether a full- blown spring clean is what is really needed and can be handled, or whether we need to do something less far reaching. Sometimes we do something to make them comfortable, and then they gain courage either immediately or at a much later date to come back for more.
Once I treated a woman for painful knees. She got better and was very pleased, but I felt that I really hadn’t got to the bottom of things in some way that I couldn’t quite understand. Some years later she came back again and told me about claims that her now-dead husband had abused their daughters. At the end of the session she said to me: “You must have thought I was mad wittering on about my knees, when all this was going on.” But at the time she probably hadn’t been ready to look at it. I suspect that if I had pushed her, she would have cancelled her appointment and not got her knees dealt with either. As it was, we had built a good relationship so that when she was ready to look at these intimate family problems, she came back to see me confident I could help her.
Sometimes you need to challenge people to find out how far they are prepared to go. It’s also important not to assume who is or is not ready to make changes in their lives. A woman came to see me because she was constantly tired. She liked drinking tea with three spoonfuls of sugar in it, but had found that this made her very tired. She was a relatively uneducated and unsophisticated woman – she was a cleaner and her husband was a nightclub bouncer – and they knew little about complementary therapies. After I’d taken the case history I challenged her very gently: “So, you’ve come to ask me to fix you so you can go on drinking tea with three spoonfuls of sugar in it, even though I think eating a healthy diet is really important.” They both laughed, and I realised that even though they knew little, she was probably prepared to do whatever it took to get well – it was my job to help that process. In fact as part of the treatment she had one of the most amazing healing reactions I’ve ever seen. By the time I’d finished the treatment she couldn’t get off the couch unaided. Her hands and feet were swollen and distorted. She was unable to walk without assistance, and couldn’t put her shoes on at all. They did not seem at all perturbed by this, but took it as a demonstration of how powerful health kinesiology can be. They understood that her body was going through a major detox and needed rest. They did not rush off to the doctor in alarm, but waited for the symptoms to pass. When they came for the next appointment, the husband thanked me for giving him back his wife – now she was full of energy like she used to be. As a result of this experience, they also made changes to their lifestyle so that they were generally healthier.
In the early 90’s I taught a health kinesiology workshop in Moscow to a group of people who included mothers of severely mentally and physically handicapped children. These women were often single mothers suffering great hardship. Every day was a struggle, and the financial situation of most of them was dire. In health kinesiology we use a small piece of equipment called a gizmo, which I knew they couldn’t afford. I debated whether to leave out this section in my teaching. After a lot of thought I decided to teach about it on the grounds that one day they might have the money and so needed to have it as an option. The morning after I taught this, one of the women came to see me and explained through the interpreter that they had all clubbed together so they could buy one. They intended to share it between them. I felt humbled and inspired. I try to remember this incident and not judge whether or not people can afford a particular supplement or treatment.
Some years ago as part of my studies, I watched an established practitioner work. One of his new clients was a severely stressed man, who had relationship and work problems. The practitioner told him he had to give up smoking, cut down on his alcohol consumption and eat more healthily. I don’t know what happened with this client, but I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t have come back for his next appointment. This man was already over-stressed. He wanted at least some of his burden removed, not to have it added to by being given all these extra demands.
We should not have the same expectations of all our clients. After all they are all individual, but it is important not to make assumptions too. This is a fundamental practitioner skill that seems to so rarely be taught, but it is a vitally important one to master. Managing clients properly is of the utmost importance.
Copyright 2007 Jane Thurnell-Read