The Chedva Beat: You refer to your clients as the “experts” and the “knowledge-makers.” How would you say this affects your authority as a therapist? What happens to the therapist’s presence if the client is the expert?
Rachel: Narrative therapy disagrees with the classic position of the therapist as giving advice and being the only authority or expert in the room. I view my position as a therapist as a collaborative one with clients, as each of us having different roles in the therapeutic process. I view the clients as the experts in the conversations and as having the knowledge and answers within themselves to change. I view my role as asking the right questions to bring this knowledge out. I spend a great amount of time working on question development in order to ensure that the questions are as safe and open as possible for clients. I also try to create a place of newness and growth, so I also try to incorporate this aspect in helping the clients bring out their knowledge of how to help themselves in a new way.
Examples of safe and open questions are: How did you do that?, Can you tell me more about that?, Did you have any intuition that something remarkable was about to take place?, Can you remember feeling a glimmer of confidence or hope?
Based on this perspective of therapy, I do not view “clients as the experts” as affecting my authority as a therapist since I do not view my position as such. On the contrary, I find that it earns the respect of clients if they are given the space to find the answers within themselves, with the help of my questions, and enhances my presence as a therapist. Clients have shared with me that they value this safe, non-judgmental space to find their way. Also, the changes clients make from our time together are more a part of them since they come from within and are not something I told them to do.
This is a quote from a client I met with, a young woman experiencing issues of confidence (used with permission of the client): “I felt I had a safe space to talk. My experiences were enriched and applauded throughout the sessions, and I felt I was growing from the sessions simply by (the therapist) asking questions about what I was saying.” After my experience with this client, the motto of “clients as the experts” really became ingrained in my way of thinking and working. This was a young woman who had therapy experience in the past and grew from those experiences, but she didn’t feel her changes were a part of her. After having met her and seeing how she had the knowledge within herself to change and experiences that needed to be brought out, it became even clearer to me how I want to work as a therapist.
As a therapist, I learn a great deal from clients about the knowledge they have within themselves to change, and I very much value our respective positions in the collaborative process.