Have you ever considered how many unwelcome people walk into your therapy room with your clients? Let me explain.

As social animals, we are a product of the many influences around us: the need to conform to cultural norms and values a very strong motivator. And as we conform to these influences, we allow ourselves subtly to move away from who we really are and who we really want to be…till we can conceal who we are even to ourselves.

So I ask the question again, how many people are there in your therapy room? There’s more than just your client. There’s their parents, their siblings, their teachers, their friends: and that’s just the influences that may have formed their characters in the past. In the present there may be their work colleagues, their partners, their children, their grandchildren. All these people, past and present, are influencing your client. That therapy room’s quite busy by now.

Consider the simple phobia and its very well known ‘fast phobia cure’. How many of you have applied this treatment to the client, and the client hasn’t suddenly seen the light and reframed their phobia? Could this be because the phobia is actually just the tip of the iceberg? Perhaps it is piggybacking on years of concealing forbidden feelings, of surviving in past and present circumstances that forbid free expression till the pressure cooker that holds it all together, blows! And it blows out in a phobic steam of panic and anxiety! What do you do then?

Confounded I observe hypnotherapists asking for more techniques or clues and guidance as to how to treat, say, phobia, like it’s a symptom we can attack with a magic cure. And indeed, there are cases where that is altogether possible. But there are many cases where it isn’t. What if this phobic expression is symptomatic of a much more existential and troubling issue for the client? Would you know what to do? Do you feel out of your depth? How far are you able to take this client with what you know?

At this point, a whole bunch of other unwelcome and unbidden guests have entered the therapy room. They are your parents, your siblings, your teachers, friends, partners, children, grandchildren, past and present. Each of them will have given you a message about who you are and will have reflected an image of you to you about your value and identity. And what’s the chances that your most troubling clients undermine you just how you were once undermined by others in your lives? Do you get irritated and annoyed with your clients then? Are they pressing your buttons? How much have you conformed to others’ views and concealed who you really are to yourselves?

Uncomfortable isn’t it? With so many people in your therapy room, your role is changing now: You need to understand the laws of CROWD CONTROL! We used to joke when I was a teacher that being a teacher nowadays wasn’t about teaching but about crowd control! I dread to think how many unbidden guests hang out in school classrooms!

But as a crowd controller, you need to know how to still the clamouring voices and influences of all those unwelcome guests in your therapy room, especially your own, so that you can connect with the heart of your client and understand what they need to become well. You are the one that has to subdue these voices that want to rescue and save your client from themselves, or that want to get rid of your client quickly because they resurrect fears of your ineffectiveness. And the more you allow those voices to interfere with your own therapy, the less effective you will become, the more ‘the unbidden ones’ take charge and the less control you have over the relationships with your clients.  This is transference and countertransference at work.

Self awareness is important. No actually, it is essential. How can you take your clients to a new awareness and learning that you yourself have not yet experienced? And if you are able to do that, how can you understand what processes they have gone through and how to replicate that? Are you happy with a hit and miss practice? Or does your 12 session model suit your limitations quite well but restrict who you can take on?

These are difficult, incisive questions. They are questions I ask of those who study with me on my CFS/ME course and The Read Your Client foundation course in psychotherapy. And you will need to open your mind and shake out the cobwebs, look into the dark corners and realise there aren’t any ghosts lurking there really!

Truly knowing what a client needs takes great individuality and breadth of experience. It also means you owe it to your profession and to yourself to work on your own unbidden guests.  Those unbidden guests are forming your opinions for you, deciding how you respond, and all the while they are hidden, they are in control.  Becoming conscious of your own part, or your countertransference, in the therapeutic setting gives you options you hadn’t anticipated.

Seeing deeply into your client’s lives without confusing your stuff with theirs doesn’t mean you subject them all to heavy and laborious analysis: that would be your own limited agenda. On the contrary. It means you can understand what steps that client needs to take to learn to become well, to take responsibility for their wellbeing, still their own clamouring voices and learn to trust themselves more deeply. Whether they’re a task oriented city gent, or a vulnerable mental health patient is irrelevant. Reaching the human being is about tuning into a client’s modality, being with them in their space, not fearing your own position by moving in and out of rapport with a huge variety of styles and personalities. It means learning to work with challenging clients without losing your centre and being able to let a client go after their hour with you in the therapy room.  If you want to get ahead and learn how build a deeper inner confidence, increase your client lists, and build a stable reputation in your area, join me on my Mind Level teleseminar programme which gives you a monthly audio lecture on various psychotherapy skills from counselling to transference and countertransference that you can access again and again.

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