Working with Clients
When we chose to work in the health, human and community services fields we chose to work with PEOPLE. People with their own stories, their own issues and their own needs. In order for us to deliver any sort of program or modality to such people we first need to be able to learn about and ‘see’ who it is we are working with.
The Person-Centred Approach (or Theory) arose from the concepts of humanistic psychology, which “views people as capable and autonomous, with the ability to resolve their difficulties, realize their potential, and change their lives in positive ways” (Seligman, 2006). Carl Rogers emphasised this perspective and directed professionals to ensure therapeutic relationships promoted self-esteem, authenticity and actualisation in their life, and help them to use their strengths (Seligman, 2006). This is achieved through clients being central to the process, and the source from which understanding about problems and solutions could be gained. Given Person-Centred Therapy required awareness of a client self-concept (how they saw themselves) and their ideal self (how they wanted to be) it makes sense that the source of this information must be centred with the client themselves (Neukrung, 2018, p.261). When considering this as a mindfulness practitioner it means focussing on, and listening to, the person (client) with who you are working. How do they understand their problems and contributing factors? How do they expect that mindfulness might be useful to them? Your clients are not empty vessels to be filled with your wisdom, they come to you with endless knowledge which you can connect with and grow from. As a practitioner this might mean beginning with intake forms or interviews, to ask your clients about their current issues and how they might want or expect mindfulness to support them. It is also about seeking feedback about their experiences throughout your services and responding accordingly.
We live in a world that is very good at telling everyone what is wrong with them, highlighting failings and predicting failings. Our health and human services systems too are focussed on the deficits of individuals and communities, eg. What is wrong with them, rather than what is right with them. People are only eligible for support if they tick enough deficit boxes.
The Strengths Based approach works in opposition to a deficit model, with Saleebey (1996, p. 297) stating that it “demands a different way of looking at individuals, families and communities”. The strengths perspective acknowledges past traumas, struggles, and diagnoses but draws upon natural abilities, capacities and strengths for growth and healing (Saleebey, 1996). It believes that all people (clients) have core strengths referred to as “CPR” which include competence, capacities, and courage; promise, possibility, and positive expectations; and resilience, reserves, and resources (Saleebey, 1996).
This approach works well in holistic practice, where it begins from a place of recognition about the strengths and capacities of our clients. It asks what they already know? What have they learned before? What gave them the strength to attend your class in the first place? This approach is respectful, empowering and person-centred, as above.