So far, as a counsellor, there have been certain moments that will stay with me. For example, the client who - having previously acted on a former therapist's advice - went on to suggest that doing so, in the end, had not really helped. Or, more generally, those who have shown something over time - a previously hidden spark, perhaps, or a desire - that, for whatever reason, was more difficult to see in the beginning.
And certainly, they all point to something really important in any course of therapy. Namely, the autonomy of the client, where they themselves not only discover the right answer/s (albeit, with my help and support) but also, as a result, really own them. Ultimately, it will always be this search for something deeper that truly separates the person-centred approach, forever driven by an ongoing desire to hold up an honest, reflective mirror for the client.
Now, this might sound scary or even unsettling, where (for some) the idea of a more guided hand - along the lines of "This is what you need to do..." or "You should try this..." - may be more appealing. Mind you, if it feels right to assist a client in the face of certain pressures e.g. by writing a letter of support, I will always consider doing so.
What's more, having been through a lot myself (e.g. with M.E./chronic fatigue syndrome), there is always a chance that a client's story will resonate in such a way that certain pieces of helpful information will inevitably pop into my head, that I may then also allude to - but only ever as an invitation (e.g. "This worked for me..."). Nevertheless, this idea of empowerment, or rather supporting the client as they move in this direction, is a life-changing experience and one that leads to a deeper, stronger healing process.
In addition, it also strikes me that we should never underestimate the fundamental strength of talking therapy. The process involved - free from those restrictions that inevitably exist with even our closest friends or relatives - really does open up a pathway leading to greater clarity for clients. Therefore, it can also genuinely provide those answers - albeit maybe not in a definitive sense, after all, perfection will almost certainly remain universally out of reach.
Indeed, even Roger's 'fully functioning person' (1961: 183, 184, 191) was never meant as a destination but rather a direction of travel, as we become more open and less rigid, at the same time, finding it easier to trust in both ourselves and others.
Or, in the words of Natiello (2001: 5):
"Although the process of actualization can be thwarted by the pain, oppression or struggle a person often encounters, it can never be destroyed. This concept is at the very core of the person-centred approach and calls for therapists to place unwavering trust in clients' ability to find their own path towards psychological health."
Hence, although trusting ourselves with the right answer may not be easy, deep down, is there really anyone else better placed to do so? Notwithstanding, of course, the presence of a therapeutic guide to help you as you go along, who will always be willing to use other styles in a creative/person-centred way, like the narrative approach, or compassion focused therapy.
And finally, on that note, if you are looking for support right now, and any of this resonates, I would love to hear from you. After all, who knows, maybe we can find those answers together.
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