the client-therapist relationship

i’d like to thank sarah for a very insightful analysis of the counsellor’s creed, which i had posted last year.

the wording of that creed is not necessarily the one i would have used – but then, i try to read for what seems to be the spirit of the words.

what sarah says about the parent/spouse/lover/master/servant implications is very interesting:

counsellors’ creed number one: “i will give you my undivided attention. however, i cannot be your parent, spouse, or lover, nor can i be master or servant. i’m just me, and i’ll be as real as i can.”

first off, this sounds warm, honest and approachable to me. i find it interesting that parents, spouses, lovers, masters and servants are all people who are associated here by implication with giving undivided attention ” as though the experience of being given undivided attention would be likely to trigger feelings of being in a parent-child or loving relationship.

they are all relationships with volatile power dynamics, or at least the potential for it. what about friend, or, as sarah later suggests, teammate? i have often thought of “friend” as the relationship archetype to strive for when therapist and client meet.

the word client always makes me a little uncomfortable. i use it because everyone knows who i’m talking about, and it is certainly better than “patient”. a patient is the passive receiver of the therapeutic powers of the therapist – no, thanks.

the word “client” in its use nowadays stems from “someone retaining a lawyer“. so my client is someone who retains me for my services. from that point of view, it’s not so bad.

the biggest problem with that term is that many of the people i have worked with do not like the word “client”, and it seems impolite and disrespectful to refer to someone by a name they don’t like. “a person who is working with me” (once again, a teammate?) is the most comfortable expression for me but it’s clunky and ambiguous.

another problem with the word “client” is that it does not at all speak to the emotional intimacy that makes most true “therapy magic” happen. i fully concur with what sarah says about this:

at its most essential and healing, moments arise which for some touch on the mystical, and they are the same moments of being accepted, understood, truly present and alive, which we seek with our parents, spouses, masters or servants, or, mistakenly, from them. moments of awareness and connection, together. these moments and not any particular variant of the relationships which create or allow them, are, in this counsellor’s opinion, just what people need.

go here for the rest of sarah’s article.

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