By: Janina Sola
Therapist, The Refuge – A Healing Place
As I sat and wondered about the many topics of trauma and my contribution based on the insight of theoretical perspectives into trauma, I realized that although there is an abundance of research that points to why we do this treatment, most of what I do as a clinician relates back to an innate ability to relate to clients in a personable way. A few months ago, I was asked about being a therapist and advice that I would give to college/graduate students in regard to actual practice. I couldn’t help but immediately respond “just be there, be present, and be present with them.”
Looking back, I could not have said it any other way. My role as a therapist often does not rely on exactly what theoretical perspective I have about therapy and counseling. My role is meeting the client where they are emotionally and ensuring their safety throughout treatment.
Since joining The Refuge, I have been exposed to all levels of care from Detox to Outpatient which gives the advantage of knowing, clinically, what therapists provide at each level of care. No matter what level of care the client needs though, by far, the most important factor that helps clients is finding someone who can help ease their anxiety and pressure about being in treatment. In order to do that, a therapist must adapt with each new client and learn quickly where their needs lie. Additionally, a therapist must also trust in their gut to assess their personality and ways to be able to connect. This rapport building is crucial to the therapeutic process and what provides the foundation for the client’s perspective of treatment.
Part of building that rapport is hearing them, being present with them, and walking the road with them. Too often, clients feel the difficulty of establishing a relationship with someone they do not know. While this automatically may cause some anxiety, the ability for a therapist to walk alongside their story helps the client become more at ease with telling it. The point of walking alongside is the lack of judgment that may come with exposing secrets to others. Often I tell clients that they are jumping out of a boat and into the sea but they have a life jacket; which is the therapist and the therapy that comes along the way. Learning to let go, in that way, depends on the therapist’s ability to tune into the client’s needs.
After the initial fear, comes the ongoing treatment that tends to provoke lots of emotions for a client. Throughout treatment, the goal is to get the client in a space where they can step down a level of care or even return home to establish a support network. The boundaries are often pushed in therapy in a way that evokes fear, sadness, shame, guilt, anger, and happiness all at the same time. Therefore, it can prove to be a challenging task. However, the same concept still applies…meeting the client wherever they are at emotionally. By allowing the therapeutic process to naturally evolve, the client feels less anxiety about expectations of the therapist while also engaging in a conversation about how their why their present and future are based on their past.
By allowing the client to just feel without imposition of how they should feel helps with establishing trust within a therapeutic relationship. It is the importance of that, which drives my desire to continue counseling others and helping clients through feeling (most times all over again) the most difficult moments in their lives. It is with this ability that therapists are able to continue challenging clients with love; without losing their trust. It is with this ability that I am able to see clients heal.