For the last 40 years, I have been a therapist devoted to serving and assisting many different types of people, from children to adults, individuals, families. Due to my many years of experience, people are constantly asking me for my outlook on different theories. As flattered as that makes me feel, I remind them that books are a great resource for more theory. From me, people take away hands-on application and skills. In my opinion, the more capable we are at exploring our own shadows and strengths, the more proficient we will be when assisting our clientele.
Along with professions such as hairdressers, bartenders, uber drivers’ therapists are considered “privileged listeners.” Our clients typically depend on us to provide them with a safe and trusting space for their emotional turmoil. As honorable as that may be, it places ample amounts of trust in those of these professions.
No two people are the same, nor are their symptoms or disorders. Each day, I face a new situation and a new obstacle for a client to tackle. The following are examples of how I’ve jazzed up a “normal” therapy or counseling session by adding a fun twist:
- Recently, I was working with a younger client, around 12 years old. This client has recently developed symptoms related to body image issues. He was comparing himself to a flawless version of what he thought he should look like. It reminded me a bit of Goldilocks. Aspects of him, were “too this” or “too that.” I reminded him that as Goldilocks would say, he was “just right”. I wrote those two words on a piece of paper and asked him to keep it with him in case he needed the subtle reminder. Next, we did something I call the “Body Love Dance”, which is something I came across when I was becoming a Laughter Yoga Instructor. Put simply, participants stand and sing out a call of encouraging statements regarding various parts of them. “I love my hair. I really, really love my hair. Thank you, hair,” and so on. Silly? Yes. Fun? Absolutely. Effective in helping people overcome body shaming and comparison? You bet. He agreed to do it with his family and when he was distracted by his obsessive thoughts, he’d be sure to remind himself of all the great qualities about himself.
- I have a client who faces overwhelming anxiety and constantly has an urge to run away from his problematic thoughts—always asking himself “what if?” Recently, while listening to the radio, I heard a long-distance runner talking about how he visualizes zombies chasing after him during his runs to make him go faster. I told my client to view his anxiety as feisty zombies, ready to eat his brain. As I mimicked a zombie, he laughed and pictured chopping his anxiety away one thought at a time.
- I’ve had a client who is extremely spiritual. I found a way to tap into her spirituality, to include it as a therapeutic tool. Maybe it’s not a religious belief, or a spiritual practice, but most people have something that bonds them with something superior. This connection might come as a way for them to confront whatever they are facing, realizing they’ve got someone on their side.
It’s important to remember that as counselors and therapists, appropriate boundaries with our clients are necessary. It’s also important to note that therapists, too, have many of the same deep questions our clients have. We may seem like we have all the answers, when really, everyone struggles with something. When we have the ability to connect with our clients as one human being seeking another, that is when therapy becomes a sacred space. That is when a therapist can really dive deep and become an unprompted, unscripted counselor.