I have often likened being a therapist to being a diligent and nurturing gardener. So much of the time we are planting seeds, encouraging clients to become curious about their thoughts, feelings and behaviors, making it safe for them to re-evaluate existing beliefs in a compassionate, non-shaming way. Every time we offer our clients a new interpretation or understanding of their life experiences we are planting seeds for new possibilities. One of the most important contributions we can make is to plant seeds of hope into the therapy process. By the time clients land in our waiting rooms, they are often nearly out of hope. Seeing a mental health professional is typically not the first thing a struggling client will do. In fact, it’s often the last thing they attempt after reading self-help books, talking with friends, family, and clergy still hasn’t given them the relief or the answers they are seeking. This is important for therapists to remember as it reinforces the need for us to hold on to hope for our clients.

Most therapists agree that regardless of the treatment modality that’s employed, the foundation of successful treatment is rooted in the quality of the therapeutic relationship. And in addition to building trust and attunement, and approaching clients with compassion, bringing a genuine sense of hope and optimism into the room is paramount in our alliance with clients. There are a number of ways in which we can infuse the therapy process with a sense of hope.

Pointing out to clients the ways in which they have overcome challenges in the past helps to highlight their inherent resiliency. Looking for examples of when they didn’t have the symptom or problem they currently struggle with is a way to point out “exceptions” to their one-dimensional narrative of hopelessness or helplessness. Identifying and validating even the smallest positive baby steps that clients take can have a powerful cumulative effect and re-instate a feeling of hope. This can be accomplished by frequently pausing a session to shine a spotlight on a new insight or compassionate statement uttered by the client. And as gardeners, perhaps the most important seeds we can plant are the ones that repeatedly let our clients know that we have hope and faith in their ability to grow and to heal. I always encourage my clients to borrow and lean on my hope until they have their own. It’s a wonderful thing when those seeds eventually take root and you both begin to witness the emergence of tiny green sprouts. With enough nurturance, those sprouts grow tall and strong!

Interested in learning how to further nurture your clients growth and success? Check out this upcoming training, “Nurturing Resiliency After Trauma: Your Past Does Not Define Your Future.”

Please share any methods that you’ve developed in your practice to help nurture your clients’ growth and success.

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