I was criticised by someone a while back after I mentioned in a blog how I’d had dinner with a client from 10 years ago. It was the opinion of this therapist that ‘once a client always a client’ and there should be no shifting in the dynamic of this relationship. I couldn’t disagree more. Her opinion caused me to smile last week.
On our Diploma course we teach an advanced technique very early in the syllabus. It’s called Time Line Reconsolidation and it enables clients to revisit negative events from their past which they feel have contributed to a present issue, and change their perceptions of them in such a way that they experience a lessening of their problem – often a dramatic lessening. It’s brief and doesn’t usually involve a lot of emotion. My thinking behind teaching something so powerful so early is that they then have the longest time possible to practice it under our guidance before they qualify. Teaching them just before they start seeing ‘live’ clients doesn’t make sense to me! But I don’t expect everyone will agree with me about this either.
On the day we teach it we ask graduates of the course to give up their afternoon to come and assist so we have a ratio of 1 assistant to every 3 students (we already have assistants who come every weekend to mentor the group, at a ratio of 1 to 6). Such is the spirit within Quest that we always have more volunteers than we have places, and as I look at them gather I am always tremendously proud of the expertise that has emerged over the years from the efforts they’ve made to become able to help people change. While I’m available to help, it’s very rare that I have to.
What made me smile on this occasion was that the past client of mine in question, Chloe Cook, was one of our assistants. As her group of three took it in turns to be client, therapist and observer, I noticed that the student who was the client had tapped into an event that was obviously upsetting. In common with the whole group she had been briefed that she, like any client of ours, was completely in charge of the session and could halt it at any time, but she was choosing to continue.
Chloe had stepped in and was guiding her through the process. I couldn’t hear a word of it because I find that stepping too close can be distracting for them, but I was able to observe the intterplay between everyone in the group. I was impressed by the complete attention the other students were paying to the exercise. I was impressed by the courage of the client. And I was almost overwhelmed with pride watching Chloe’s body language. She looked almost serene as she guided her client, intent and focused without a hint of tension in the face of her client’s tears, all the way to a successful resolution.
I met her as a confused and unhappy 17 year old. Ten years on she’s a mother of three, working as a Cognitive Hypnotherapist (specialising in eating disorders) who gives her time one weekend a month, unpaid, to help students on the course realise their own potential. And yet, apparently, I should still keep Chloe in a place I worked with her to escape from. I don’t think so. We’re all fellow strugglers, and often that struggle helps us find within ourselves something that can transform our life, and that of others. None of us are who we’re going to be yet, and we can choose to become more, or less. I think the relationship between therapist and client should reflect the growth of the client. It’s not about working without boundaries, it’s about the boundaries moving as they do.
I left the training room grateful for the people I’ve met thought Quest; their courage, their persistence and their spirit, represented by every single assistant. I wondered who in the room of students I would see one day working as well as Chloe – it’s possible for all of them – and I wondered what further transformations I have to look forward to in other clients. I really have a great job.