Supporting Our Growth
We all need support to help us grow. A plant needs sunlight, water and food. A child needs a safe home, food, love, encouragement, stimulation and space to explore. A therapy practice also needs support, and by extension, since we are the product or service we provide, we too need support in order to grow in the work, and to grow our practice.
What does support look like in this context?
We all need to have our basic needs met. These include physical needs for safety, warmth, closeness, and touch; emotional needs of encouragement, compassion, companionship, intimacy; psychological needs of interest and stimulation; and of course, financial needs of enough money to pay for what we need and want to buy.
Often when first meeting a client, we will ask them about their support network, in terms of the people around them who are supportive and caring. However, we know this is only part of the story. Learning what supports the client helps us to become more attuned to them in the work, and can help to smooth the path they are taking.
While our basic needs are common to all of us, each of us is unique in what we find supportive in our lives. What I find supportive may not have the same importance for you. For example, I like information and to know how things work. When I understand something, I find it easier to accept. So in my own process, when I understand why I feel a particular way, or can normalise my feelings by reference to some theoretical model, I find it easier to accept where I am, and to find a way forward.
Other supports include being heard, being understood, feeling that we’re not alone, structure, appreciation and acknowledgement. Small things can be very supportive. A kind word, a cup of tea, or a good night’s sleep can recharge us. And there are many more that I haven’t mentioned here.
Some supports may not look like support at first glance, for example, some people may find challenge supportive and for them, the buzz of a big challenge or a big goal will help them to grow. When I had to take a year out of therapy training because my tutors believed I wasn’t ready to go on, it felt more like failure and rejection than support. It was only later that I realised what a huge gift I had been given.
And then there is the other side, what is not supportive for us. Again, each of us will differ in this although there is a lot of commonality. What does not support us is often a repeat of our old wounding. For those who have received a lot of criticism in their lives, any feedback, however well intentioned, may trigger a shame cycle. For those who have struggled with trauma or boundary invasions, any sudden or quick change may evoke a sense of being attacked. For others, who have not had those particular wounds, the same feedback or change of tack may be perceived in a very different way. So it’s a question of horses for courses. And while we have little control over whether we receive the external support we need, we always have the choice to support ourselves.
I’m rattling on here about support and you’re probably wondering what does this have to do with establishing or developing your practice. Well, it has everything to do with it. By keeping the idea of support to the front of our minds in everything we do, by seeing ourselves and our practice through a lens of support, the journey can be a much easier one. Asking ourselves “How could I support myself in this situation?” or “What do I need to bring me closer to where I’m going?” is far more likely to carry us forward, than saying to ourselves “I should…” or “What was I thinking…”
Our training as therapists can leave us a bit distrustful of our own motives, and it’s true that sometimes a support can turn into a defence if it’s over used.
Here are some examples of how we can either support or undermine ourselves in any given situation. In each case, ask yourself which is more supportive?
- Criticising ourselves for not being or doing the same as other people (Well, she’s got her website up and running, so I should too), or, using our observation of what has worked for others as a positive example
- Insisting we get everything right first time all the time and beating ourselves up when things go wrong (I should have known better than to try that), or aspiring to continuously learning and growing from our experience
- Forcing ourselves to do the hard thing (I should challenge this client about their attendance), or listening to our resistance as a guide to something that needs to be healed
- Denying that we have needs or insisting that our needs are less important than other peoples’ (I shouldn’t need money in the bank to feel safe), or acknowledging that our needs are important and if they are ignored they sabotage us somewhere down the line
- Insisting that things turn out a particular way (I should get more referrals from doctors), or allowing that they may turn out in many different ways and staying open to that.
As I’ve said, we always have the choice to support ourselves, but so often we choose to undermine ourselves instead. It’s easy to focus on the supports that aren’t there for us, and completely miss the ones that are. Begin to notice the things that support you and you’ll find that more of them come into your awareness.
If you could use some support in relation to starting or growing your practice, or would like to explore what supports you need, perhaps I can help you. Contact me here with your query or comment, or to make an appointment. I offer a free 20 minute consultation.