© Linda Graham, MFT
I’ve had the experience several times, as I imagine you have, of working with three different clients on similar issues for similar lengths of time – and watch one client zoom ahead, learning-discovering-integrating so quickly and skillfully, watch the second client make steady if laborious progress, and watch the third plod along hardly progressing at all. Clearly, a client’s capacity to do therapeutic work, their level of trust in me as their therapist, the complexity of family of origin legacies, their defensive structures, all play a part in the different paces of therapeutic progress. I’m finding another important contribution is how well a client uses resources outside of the sessions to supplement, deepen, and accelerate their process.
I want to suggest that referring clients to all kinds of resources outside of the room can greatly enhance what happens inside the room.
We usually see clients one hour per week; clients live the other 167 hours in a week outside of session. 167 hours filled with work, relationships, activities, hopes, fears, dreams. Recommending resources to help clients navigate those hours and days, in addition to the tools, insight and support we provide in session, can help clients practice, reinforce or even challenge what they learn in session with us.
I’ve loaned out many books, tapes and videos to clients over the years, and have cultivated a practice of engaging clients in their own process through these resources. I have my traditional favorites, of course: Transitions by William Bridges, Dance of Anger by Harriet Lerner,The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. Resources that are consistently helpful to clients wanting to engage in their own process outside the session. Now I have clients bringing books into session to recommend to me. I find they help me keep abreast of new ideas and resources, and I often turn around and recommend these new resources to other clients as well.
I pay attention to current movies and other cultural resources. When four different couples came into session one week exclaiming about “American Beauty”, I realized the film’s archetypal figures were going to resonate with other clients as well – and they did.
I often recommend meditation and yoga classes to clients, especially those struggling with anxiety and stress, and have seen remarkable results within a few months. Increasingly I recommend the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction classes offered through Kaiser and CPMC. Developed by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts, MBSR combines meditation and yoga techniques that, if diligently practiced over the 8 week course, can transform a client’s life.
I’ve now had two different clients simply blossom and thrive from adopting pets, one a tabby cat, the other a dachshund. To help these clients open their hearts through the love of their pets has had a profound effect on our work together and on their other human relationships in a way that seems nothing short of miraculous.
Clients deepen their therapeutic work or send it in a new direction by attending classes, workshops, seminars, all of which abound in the Bay Area. Movement and dance classes can be especially helpful to clients who are disembodied from their own felt experience. Because I lead a Deepening Relationships group for men and women, I’ve even researched resources for singles and have had one member meet his now wife through the Meeting Game, an evening where singles meet and talk with each other through structured exercises.
Resourcing therapy works. When we help clients use resources available in their “real” lives, those resources work synergistically to complement, deepen and accelerate the work we do in session. Clients learn to actively take responsibility for their healing process.
Linda Graham, MFT, is in full-time private practice in San Francisco and Corte Madera, CA, specializing in relationship counseling for individuals and couples. She offers consultation and trainings nationwide on the integration of relational psychology, mindfulness, and neuroscience. She publishes a monthly e- newsletter on Healing and Awakening into Aliveness and Wholeness, archived on www.lindagraham-mft.com, and is writing a book: Growing Up and Waking Up: The Dance of the Whole Self. Contact Linda through this website