How You View Your Clients and Why It Matters
I have been having a lot of conversations with colleagues about how the way we view our clients impacts our work. It’s so important that it actually is equal to how well you know the approach. To express how important it is, in this video I share one of the hardest situations I ever experienced in my office. A lesson from my grandmother helped me remember how important it is to view the client through the proper lens and I hope this lesson helps you too.
The other day I had a really interesting conversation with someone very close to me, very prominent person in the Solution Focused world. And we were talking about the way that we view our clients and like how that matters. And I thought about that a long time. And I think, you know, we can talk about Solution Focused Brief Therapy, and we can talk about like, the skills it takes to do this and the techniques of Solution Focused and all that stuff. But I think that it’s also important that we talk about like, how we view our clients matters.
Like in the beginning of my teaching I used to say that like, you have to like your clients in order for this to work, and I don’t describe it that way anymore. I think what I was trying to say, way back then was, you have to see positive in your client. Not that they are positive or not that like, everybody is all great or anything like that. I don’t mean to just see people through rose colored glasses, but you have to see positive in them in order to get positive out like, in order for you to have a conversation about change.
You have to be able to see the person is capable of change. A really great example that everybody, most people are familiar with in the movie Star Wars is Luke Skywalker. I now believe Star Wars like the most Solution Focused movie ever. But you have Luke Skywalker who saw Good and Darth Vader,
and he made several decisions throughout the three movie saga. Um, based upon “I know there’s good in him”,
so you have to see good in people. And I want to tell you guys about the hardest time.
I’m want to tell you about the hardest time I ever experienced seeing good in someone and why it matters. So as you can see,
I’m an African American, I’m a black man. And, um, one day I walked into my lobby to see a couple I’d never seen before.
And like, I was walking and as I was approaching the lobby, I could hear bickering, and I knew it was a couple I’d ever seen.
The door. There’s a door to the lobby that closes and I open the door, and the husband in the relationship looks at me and turns to his wife and says,
You didn’t tell me he was an N-word and he said the word, and I was like, floored. I mean
I was devastated to hear that. The wife looks at me and starts crying. I said, Excuse me for a second.
I closed the door and I went back into my office and I just started thinking. And to be honest with you,
I was mad. I was like, I’m going to kick this dude’s ass out of my office. I was really mad.
I was really frustrated. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to handle this situation, something I never, a situation
I’d never been in before, or since for that matter. And I started thinking about my grandmother and what came into my mind in that moment
was I remember a time when I was a kid. I was about eight years old, and I was with my grandmother in Chicago and a couple of cousins,
and a really racist incident happened, and somebody made it really racist comment to my grandmother about all these black kids that she was with, me and my cousins, and my grandmother held the door open for the person where this situation happened?
I Remember asking my grandmother, you know, eight years old. I asked my grandmother why she treated someone like that.
And my grandmother said, “Never let someone, no matter how vicious, or terrible they seem, never let them cause you to forget
they’re a Child of God, always treat people with the integrity that you possess, not necessarily with the integrity that they possess.”
So here I am in my office, having just had that incident happened, and I just, that thought went through my mind like that lesson from my grandmother, and I walked back in my lobby and I said, “So obviously
that was uncomfortable situation and I won’t pretend that it wasn’t, but if you guys are still interested in therapy
I’m happy to, happy to do it? The woman is now crying. The husband looks frustrated.
The husband says, “Yeah, I guess so”. And the woman wipes her tears and doesn’t say anything,
she gets up and walks in my office and they walk to my office. And I said “What are your best hopes from talking?” and did the session.
Now, Um, the reason why I’m sharing that with you guys now is because if I view this person as like, a bigot or a bad angry person, then it becomes very difficult for me to ask this person questions about the process of change because it’s very hard for me to believe in them and do my job as a therapist.
But if I treat this person based upon what my grandmother taught me all those years ago, treat people from my position of integrity and not from his position,
then I could view him as, just my grandmother inflected, as a Child of God. And I believe everybody,
even, even horrible bigoted people deserve good therapy. And I could do my best to provide it. And I think it’s important
that we recognize that in order to do Solution Focused Brief Therapy well and in fact, forget Solution Focused. In order to be a good helper,
I have to view people through the lens of agency. I have to view people as deserving of help. I have to view people is capable or I can’t do this job.
So we have to be aware of our own biases and the way that they show up in the therapy.
And after that conversation I was just thinking about my grandmother and that lesson I learned. And that experience that I had being a black man practicing psychotherapy my private practice here in Texas.
So anyway, I hope that makes sense to you. Hope you benefit from it because I want you guys to remember.
Like we gotta be aware of our biases. And if you can’t, then like, send someone away, I could have said to that client,
I’m not willing to see you, and send this one away, and that would have also been an integral thing. But what I can’t do is just allow my biases to show up in therapy
unaware, because then I’m not being the best therapist I can be. And there’s no way that I can
like do Solution Focused Brief Therapy with those biases present. Like, the language of Solution Focused is important.
But where it comes from, the language is guided by our assumptions, and it’s important that we always remember that.
So, hope that helps. So look, follow me on social media @Elliottspeaks.com, Instagram, Twitter,
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Thank you guys so much. I appreciate it! Fist Bump!