As a young therapist, I was told not to cry in session with my clients. I felt I couldn’t help it. I was connected with them, empathic of their despair or in awe of their epiphanies and blossoming right before me.
I went into session, determined. Don’t cry. I dug my fingernails into my palm.
But wait… where was I focused? Not on the client. How f—ked up was that.
And so I allowed myself to well up.
And I learned to tell prospective clients that I tell them that I cry so that they know we’ll maintain our focus on them. That I’m ok with my tears. As an added bonus, I tell them I curse (not at them) and drop the F-Bomb.
That’s who I am, and that’s who I bring to the relationship.
Their response: relief to learn that I’m human. That I can emote. That my emotional expression is in response to their experience, which demonstrates that I’m connected with them.
I’ve always felt that the horizontal attunement of Self to Self, the heart-to-heart connection, soul-to-soul connection between therapist and client draws in the vertical attunement of Source, which provides an alchemical urn for the client to do their work and where the miracles unfold.
Thus, I see it required to bring my personality, my humanness, my self into the relationship with my clients.
What to do if I see a client in the grocery store or at a yoga class? What to do about the possibility of dual relationships?
Well, the way I figure it, I am human and I have a life. I go to the grocery store, like everyone else. Should I hide away, exiling myself from possible contact with my clients? Absolutely not!
And I’m friendly, that’s who I am. I say hello to everyone that I make eye contact with. I affirm their presence. And I do so with clients that I bump into. I would not be myself if I didn’t affirm them. And so I tell them up front, “If I see you, I’ll say hello to you, as I do to everyone.” My hello does not designate them as a client.
I had an incredible lesson years ago when I attended a yoga class. I walked in and was hit with the reality that there were six former and current clients of mine present. And guess what? They were elated. They greeted me by name. They disclosed through their behavior that they knew me.
I was welcomed by my clients. I didn’t need to find another class. I didn’t need to experience disappointment. I could live my life and pursue my interests. I was up for the challenge of navigating the waters of dual relationships. I was up for the responsibility to inquire of my clients their responses to my presence in the class.
But, what to do about self-disclosure? What to do about sharing my marital or parental status? My religious or spiritual beliefs?
When it comes to disclosing personal information about my life, I have four guidelines: 1) it must speak of the client’s current situation; 2) it must serve as an example of the human condition; 3) it must be inspirational and offered for the greater good; and 4) it must not come from my ego.
And this I hold to whether in therapy relationships or spiritual mentorship relationships.
As healers and professionals, people come to us for help. We are offering our services, support and guidance. There is a power differential in the equation and as such there are boundaries.
But they need not be totally black or white. There is a line we can walk. We can bring ourselves into our professional relationships. We are both the professional and the person. And bringing our humanness into our professional relationships allows our clients to gain a small peek inside and thus we can offer ourselves up for inspiration and guidance.