How my clients grow me

The phrase ‘my clients grow me’ came out of my mouth in supervision this week. My supervisor said, “You should write about that. It’s an overlooked aspect of the work that we do.” So here I go.

My clients grow me, by which I mean, with every client I learn something and with every client I build something in me. I am educated and shaped by my clients. So what do I learn and what is built?

What I learn

Each client defies my biases. Each client is outrageously, individually themselves and no matter how my brain might try to stereotype or assume, it is always confounded. 

Each client brings me their inspirations; music, films, poems, hobbies. I get to look them up and be inspired too.

Each client teaches me about life. Like reading fiction, each client’s unique life has twists, turns and events that grow my awareness of what a life can be.

Each client teaches me about my impact. I can only intend good impact, I can’t ensure it. My clients let me know when my impact is positive and, if I have built enough trust, they also let me know when I have misunderstood them, irritated or upset them.

I learn that two or more people can create outcomes so much greater than the sum of the parts. We co-create our health, our careers, our lives, our skills and our achievements in families, in friendship groups, in teams and in pairs.

Each client shows me in a myriad ways how resourceful and resilient human nature is.  Each has overcome adversity, each has survived. Each has struggled with feelings that we might imagine to be unbearable but they have been borne. 

What I build

As I sit with clients, I invariably witness their discomforts, anxieties, sadnesses, uncertainties and distresses. In order to empathise without rescuing, I must attend to my own distress. As I sit with theirs, I must sit with my own. My clients help me build a tolerance for my own feelings in every session. 

What I also build is a trust in the ‘thing’ that moves us each of us toward growth and resourcefulness. Even in the hardest of circumstances, even when our maladaptive attempts to soothe ourselves (such as overworking, pleasing, numbing or avoiding) are running wild, behind them is a momentum to thrive.