One of the biggests mistakes I used to make was not being able to put myself into my client’s shoes. I’m sure it was an age thing for me. My first adult job was working on a stroke unit and care of the elderly wards. The people I worked with when I was in my early 20’s were around 50 years older than me, and that seemed like a lifetime! I naively felt that they were able to come to terms with what had happened to them because as you get older you expect illnesses to occur. I got frustrated when people did not engage in therapy- not thinking that it might be the materials I had chosen, or the amazing person I had overlooked in the planning of my session.
Thankfully I’ve learnt to look at the person as a person first. To look beyond the person in the hospital bed or the person who is stuck in one chair at home for most of the day. I’ve realised that what has happened to them is something they did not plan for or expect. Mostly I’ve realised how fast time flies- that I myself will reach 80 still feeling like myself now and wondering where the time went. I’ve learnt that to engage people in therapy you need to get to know them, learn from them and value the contribution they have made to the life I have now.
One meeting stands out most in my head. I assessed an 84 year old lady with a very mild dysarthria but huge physical difficulties that she was grieving over. She turned from the window in her wheelchair and she looked so much like me it took my breath away- red hair and freckles. I felt like I was meeting myself in 50 years time. We had a long conversation and I learnt so much from her. She was one of the first working mothers of her time & the help and advice she gave me came at a much needed time. She didn’t need much therapy in the end but I enjoyed our sessions immensely and grew as a clinician as a result.