What sort of person are you while you are working with a client? What characteristics are most present? What part of you is running the show? If you are like most of us, it will shift from time to time.
In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities,
in the expert’s mind there are few.
The more one understands one’s own reactions,
the less one is at their mercy.
Here are some parts you might recognize:
- The Scientist: This is the part of you who understands the complexities of the client’s condition and how it is affected by diet. With its assistance, you quickly get to the bottom of what the client needs to change. At times that part may get carried away, explaining the science in too much detail to the client.
- The Caring One: We naturally respond to many of our clients in a caring way. We want the best for them and empathize when they are upset. This part is also good at tuning in to client responses to what happens in the session. For example, if your inner scientist gets carried away and the client’s eyes glaze over, this part will notice. This part can also take over excessively, causing you to focus solely on the client’s feelings and forget about the nutrition goals.
- The Judge: We all have the ability to figure out what is right and wrong about the client’s diet or his lab results. At its best, this part brings critical thinking to the session. It is no longer helpful if it begins judging the client’s behavior. One way to recognize when this part is in charge is a tendency to label. For example, you may be tempted to call a client “noncompliant” or “stupid” or “uncooperative.”
You may notice other aspects that pop up when you work. We all have our prominent parts.
Most of us at some point have thought or said about a client something like, “Part of me wishes that client would cancel her appointment.” Or “When he started joking again about watching TV and eating all day, part of me wanted to shake some sense into him.” These are examples of something in the client bringing up a part in us. There are more examples in Tip #16.
Whom do you want in your office when you work? Ideally you will be in your core self with your various parts chiming in to assist you without taking over. Here are some ideas for making use of your parts rather than allowing them to take over:
- Take a moment to center yourself before you begin a session. Find that balanced place where some useful parts show up but the central self stays in charge. How do you best do this? Perhaps you meditate or pray for a moment. You could simply take a few slow, mindful breaths.
- Speak for a part. When you notice judgements, frustrations or labeling, find a way to speak for that part of you to a colleague or to yourself. This might sound like: “There is this part of me that really cares about that last client and really wants her to make changes. I just know she will feel better if she does. This part wants to force her. And another part of me knows that when I push she resists more, so next time when she is coming, I’m going to remind myself to not push and to stay with where she is right now.”
- Occasionally it may be appropriate to actually speak for a part to the client. This is better than speaking from the part or acting it out. For example, when there is more to cover and the session is almost over, your conscientious part may get anxious. Rather than acting from that part by pushing to cover all the content too quickly, take a deep breath to step back and speak for that part: “A part of me is getting anxious that we will not get to everything today. What do you most need before we end?” In this way you use the information contributed by your parts in the best service of the client.
This perspective of working with our “parts” comes from the Internal Family Systems model, developed by Richard Schwartz, PhD. http://www.selfleadership.org/