A new therapist recently asked me for some feedback as she shared about what she was going through. I ended up focusing on the importance of getting to know each person and their story before jumping to a diagnosis or trying to “fix” their symptoms.
Each person is different and it’s important to get to know their story, not only focusing on their symptoms.
It is important to get to know the person, not just “the problems.”
Also, each person might benefit from something different in therapy. For some, it might be a trusting, safe, supportive relationship. Another person might need skill building in: distress tolerance, emotional regulation, mindfulness, or interpersonal effectiveness. Still another might need processing to increase self and other awareness, increase insight, or help in identifying and naming the issues and obstacles in the way of growth. Of course there are also some of us who want to focus on decreasing symptoms of depression, anxiety, trauma, and processing relationship issues.
Rather than first focusing on the types of therapy or the symptoms presented though, it is very important to get to know an individual person and know their story. I strongly believe in focusing on the overall person and not their symptoms. Symptoms matter but it is first important to hear one’s story. I do not believe in a “broad brush approach” to therapy. It is critical that we hear the whole story of a person as much as possible. We are not defined by our symptoms or our diagnosis. There is so much more to each person. Perhaps helping people know themselves better, their strengths and passions, and helping people grow into their new identity is just as powerful as helping people decrease their symptoms.
I like this quote I heard recently by a pastor, about the power of telling our story to a safe person:
“It’s important you tell your story. Each time you tell your story to a safe person, you make new discoveries and you heal in some new ways. You make some new connections. You say, “Wow, I really did go through that” You see more. You heal more. It’s really powerful to tell your story. There’s more healing. We feel known by God, by us, by our relationship. Most people have not been able to really tell their story to some safe people. That alone is powerful.”
It is vitally important to provide that safe space for our clients to share their stories. It takes great courage to share vulnerably and it is our privilege to listen very carefully and compassionately.
“Courage starts with showing up, and letting ourselves be seen.” – Brene Brown