It was a rough session. Barbara poured her heart out, describing the persistent pain of being judged unworthy of unconditional love by her mom. Jennifer worked hard to help Barbara disrupt and untangle from this pain.
Despite the gains they made, by the end of their time together, Barbara still suffered and was exhausted.
We’ve all been there. It’s especially surprising for AAIT practitioners because it’s rare. Still, we can all learn from these moments of witnessing our client’s pain as our time has come to an end.
The big question is how do we help them restore their state and come into a more emotionally regulated spot before they leave our office — as best we can?
This topic came up recently in our AAIT Fellowship Training Group. It’s something every therapist encounters at some point. How do we help our clients button up enough before they leave our offices so that they don’t walk out vulnerable and exposed?
In my experience (35 years and counting), there are three keys to helping our clients through these times.
Acknowledge them. Acknowledge how hard they’ve worked and how hard the work was during the session. Oof. This healthy acknowledgment of your shared experience can strengthen your collaboration, despite their pain.
Help them orient to NOW. There are several ways to do this. Ask them to stand up and shake a little, bounce a little, gently. Invite them to take a few easy breaths with gentle mindful arm swings. Engage in open-eyed noticing practice, using the senses to come into connection with the present. Finally, alternate nostril breathing can help calm the system and help orient to NOW.
Acknowledge that sometimes, we have to feel worse before we feel better.
What are your favorite ways to help clients at the end of a rough session? How do you restore YOUR state at the end of a rough session?
PM me to learn how to make this a RARE occasion in your practice with AAIT.
Willa got into some kind of mess. “ruff time.” A little trip to the beauty shop straightened her out.