“How to accept myself for who I am” was, apparently, the tenth most frequent 'how to' question to Google in the UK in 2016.

It’s a question which comes into the therapy room constantly.  And if I, as therapist, am demonstrating empathy, unconditional positive regard and congruence with a client, there are times when I start to feel strong responses when the client struggles to accept him/herself for who they are.

My frustration, anger, confusion “stuckness” is likely to reflect the range of responses that client receives in everyday life from those around them.

But none of that knowledge and understanding helps the work go forward a lot.  That is, until that “in the present” feeling and response is brought into the therapeutic space.

Now that’s deep into congruence – what words can I use to express my own sense of longing for the client to be gentle with him/herself?  How do I express that frustration at not knowing them fully?  How do I encourage them to reveal just that little bit more about themselves in order to move the relationship to a deeper level?

It’s a challenge.

Whilst they may get a range of responses in everyday life, there has to be something different about how it works within therapy.  So I may feel the same feelings, have the same thoughts and responses to that person as others – but it’s what I then do with them that matters.

The client may find that others distance themselves or walk away from situations, relationships, communication etc.

So, in therapy, we need to work differently with it.

How would it be to reflect what you feel, and wonder with your client what that means for them?  How would it be to stay with those feelings and give the client permission to explore their reality against their desire?

I think the big question here is “How can I enable a client to explore and accept who s/he is if I don’t accept who I am?”

If I, as a therapist, am unwilling to engage with my own personal development, what does that say to a client?  If I, as a therapist, avoid my own struggles with self-acceptance, what message does that give to a client?

What impact does it have on clinical work?

Put yourself in the client’s chair, figuratively speaking, and reflect on what you would want from your therapist.

That might mean putting yourself in the client’s chair......literally....

It’s a challenge.