When a client says how great I am, sometimes part of me enjoys taking credit even though I know they are responsible for their own healing.
Of course you do. You’re a normal human. However when you claim as true, the things he likes about you, then it seems only fair that you claim as true, the things he does not. Here’s a suggestion: instead of taking on anything someone else believes about you, take credit for what you actually do.
• Provide an environment of unconditional positive regard.
• Provide a safe, nonjudgmental place for the exploration of both known and unknown parts of Self.
• Do not fear other people’s issues, and do not let yourself be abused by their dysfunctions.
• Do not let your own issues get in the way of other people’s work.
• Be available to re-parent this client in order to create, more positive perceptions of Self.
• Invite mental health without agendas or investment.
Celebrate and take responsibility for the gifts you give your clients through psychotherapy. Do not wait until some other person appreciates these things about you before you appreciate them in yourself. Find a way not to personalize how someone else feels about you. In this case, the word “great” describes only the intensity of this man’s emotional involvement in his therapy. He is just doing his job, which is to be transferred onto you.
When we feel a counter-transferential tug and temporarily bask in the idea that we may be great because someone else thinks so, we are in touch with one of our own issues.
As soon as you become conscious of the over-involvement, silently acknowledge to yourself, “I’m personalizing right now as well as being grandiose and dependent; what I need to do is . . . (whatever it is that solidifies your boundaries or transcends your immediate emotions)” and then put the focus of your attention back on the client’s process.
Even when you are not conscious of your internal response, get in the habit of putting your attention back on the other person’s process. In this case, encourage this man to communicate both his appreciations and resentments even more directly. Invite him also, to take ownership of and responsibility for his emotions and thoughts. Invite him to make himself the subject of his sentences.
Listen for the I-statement underneath his words. Invite him to own his responses and say what he really means:
I appreciate you so much.
I love, respect, romanticize you.
I see my own greatness in you.
I am jealous.
As you suggest phrases for him to try on, let go of expecting that anything you think of will be useful to him or that he will participate in finding an I- statement at all. He may not want or be ready to take responsibility for his response to you.
Respond as if the I-message had actually been said. Model acceptance.
“Thank you. I like being appreciated.”
Make a best guess about the underlying message and share it. “My guess is you’re feeling appreciation right now. Is that true? Okay, try telling that to me, directly.”
Whatever your intervention, when you are done put the focus back on the other person.
“How does your appreciation manifest itself as a felt sense right now?”
“What is something you appreciate about yourself?
“Who else do you need to say an appreciation to? Imagine them in this empty chair. Tell them now.”