What are the 3 most important steps when starting a therapy or coaching session?
In this article you will learn that the 3 important steps when getting started with a clients are to establish what they want, listen deeply and repeat back to them what you have understood in terms of their current situation (where they are now) and desired situation (where they want to be).
Sometimes it can be a little daunting knowing where to start with a client. Whether you are new to working with clients or a veteran it can be natural to feel nervous or tongue tied. Nervousness underpinned by wanting to do a good job and not wanting to fail at all costs.
One of the best places to get started even before the client session commences is to centre oneself.
What I mean by centering the self is to empty the thoughts and come into the moment so that you can be fully present for your client and yourself.
When you center yourself you should feel calm, at peace and in control.
You have a confidence and self-belief and open to serving the client fully.
There are no thoughts in your mind, other than being fully present for the client.
Before my client sessions I use the following methods to centre and prepare myself:
- Meditate for at least 30 minutes and many times 1 hour, and if I have back to back client sessions, I give myself a window of at least 30 minutes in between and meditate in the morning for one hour
- Prepare the space whether its on-line or face to face (as in clean the room and get some water and tissues, spray the space with some natural fragrance or incense and open the windows and let fresh air in)
- If the client has been faced with challenging issues I might do some surrogate work before starting, for example with EFT Tapping I might do surrogate tapping, with Journey work I might open in the consciousness of the client and complete a Journey process on the client or if Coaching I might open into the awareness of the client and ask their soul what they need and make the intention of it happening
What is EFT Tapping And How It Heals?
Emotional Freedom Techniques (tapping) is clinically proven to lower stress, tension, anxiety, past-trauma to enable health, happiness and vitality.
A couple of techniques to center yourself:
- Take a moment to close your eyes and breathe in and out.
- Meditate for 30 minutes prior to the session. Use your favorite meditation technique. There are so many on-line.
- Do some EFT Tapping on yourself before the session. For example,
- “Even though I feel nervous, I love and accept myself.”
- “Even though I doubt myself, that is ok, I love and accept myself
- Even though I sometimes question if I can do it, I deeply and completely love and accept myself
- Make yourself like an empty channel where there is total accept of what is and you can let the session flow through you, where there is nothing to do other than be present. I love this Empty Channel Meditation (let us know in comments how you liked it).
The first step to start is to establish what the client wants
Assuming you have already completed an intake with the client, the very first step when you meet with your client is to establish what the client wants in rapport.
The act of having rapport is to have a connection with your client where they feel safe, reassured and connected.
The ways to have rapport are to match and mirror them. You can match and mirror with your body language, tone and pace of voice.
For example, if your client is speaking fast to match them where they are. If they are speaking slowly and your tendency is to speak fast, then to slow down your pace to meet them where they are.
The truth is people like people, like themselves. It makes them feel safer as its what they are familar with.
The questions you can ask to get started are:
- How are things?
- How are you?
- What has been happening?
- If its your second session, What happened since the last time we spoke?
These are easy questions to establish where the client is now.
Let the client answer.
“When you listen deeply the words between the words become alive and palpable.”
Dr Rangana Rupavi Choudhuri (PhD)
The second step when getting started with a client is to listen deeply.
Listening deeply means listening to the exact words while observing the clients body language and tonality as well as listening intuitively to the words, feelings and thoughts not spoken.
- Spends more time listening than talking and hear the exact words and the most important
- When you listen intuitively, you can hear the words spoken and not spoken.
- Listening for the tonality, pace, speed and volume will all give you clues to where the client is at currently and how are they feeling.
Once you have listened deeply you can either reassure, congratulate, rephrase or empathise as needed.
Empathising would mean letting the client know that you understand what they are sharing. It is not sympathy.
Empathising - understand and share the feelings of another
Sympathy - feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else's misfortune
The third step is to play back to the client what they shared and confirm it
The reason to play back to the client what they shared, is that it allows for instant rapport and shows them that you have listened and heard what they have to say. It is a skill in listening and using their words when you play it back to them.
The technique of playing back to them what they have shared also creates an environment where you can ask deeper questions to get to the root cause of what might be underpinning the surface issue.
For example, if the client says, "I feel pain in my heart", you may compassionately change the tone of your voice and say, "Thank you for sharing you feel a pain in your heart, tell me more?"
In the first part of your response you acknowledge what they have shared and then you ask for more information. The reason to thank them is that it lets them know that everything is welcome.
Once the client is ready you can then ask the next question,
"So what do you want to work on today?"
or if they have already indicated what they want to explore then clarify that and give them the option to also explore something else.
"You mentioned that you are (.....your clients words, for example bothered, concerned, worried ......) by (...your clients words...) and want to explore it, is that what you want to work on today or is there something else? Tell me more"
Listen to them and repeat it back to them,
“So you want to work on (.....play it back to them in their own words ...)," and they will either confirm or correct you.
Chances are the client will let you know within the first 2 minutes what they want to work on and will also give you clues on the root cause.
The magic is to listen deeply.
If what they have shared is in line with your agreement with your client, you can continue.
In the event the issue or the goal they want to work in the current session has changed from your original agreement decided the intake form, then you may want to check that with them, what they would really want to work on.
For example, the client had booked 6 sessions with you to resolve their relationship challenges with their husband where they wanted to be more accepting of themselves and their partner. Then they showed up for their second session and they wanted to work on weight loss.
So you might like to ask,
"Thank you for sharing that you want to explore weight loss in this session which we can do. I just need to permission to check one thing with you first?"
If they say yes, "What's the reason you want to work on weight loss today and how is it related to the reason you signed up to this 6 session program, which was the relationship with your husband.
You see weight loss can be related and unrelated. It can be related because the theme is about self acceptance or it's a contentious point in the relationship or it's the reason she might feel the relationship is not working.
It could be so many different things and only your client will know.
It can also be unrelated which means you might need 6 sessions just focussed on that to reach their outcome.
So it's about understanding their perspective, checking in with yourself if you are able to fulfil what they want and if needed having an honest conversation about what is possible or not.
This is how you can respond if:
- If the area is unrelated and they want to shift focus, "I understand that your desire is to explore weight loss is unrelated to working on the relationship and you want the focus of our next 4 sessions to change to this and will pause the work on relationship. There might be some overlapping themes and there might be some completely new areas."
- If the area is related and they want to continue with the new theme under the umbrella of the original agreement, "I understand that in todays session you want to explore weight loss and feel its connected to the relationship challenge because (... clients own words...). Is that right? Get confirmation and proceed.
The clients needs, desires and wishes are central to any client session and the best starting point before any proceeding into the main session, whether its on-line or face to face sessions.
In Summary, before starting any session with a client centre yourself so that you can be present for yourself and your client. Then the first 3 steps to get started are to establish what the clients wants through questions asked in rapport, to listen deeply to their answers and replay back to them what they shared. This way you will be in rapport with your client, they will feel safe and listened to and both will be clear on the purpose of the session.
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