They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.
That’s the toughest thing about change isn’t it? That in fact it does not show up on our door step one morning all wrapped up with a pretty bow. We actually have to work, and work, and work, until maybe one day we catch ourselves going, oh yeah, I have made strides in this area of my life, or I did accomplish that goal. Our clients/patients are no different. We all struggle and we all suffer.
The amazing thing is that you are actually in the position to ease another’s suffering. I think we forget this sometimes. We think we should be pushing them, or doing more, or that they should be making more progress. When that happens, if I may make a suggestion, take five minutes and consider your own track record in regards to major life changes. Change is often a non-linear, illogical process. Sometimes we don’t know what the magic bullet will be that will actually catapult us to that next step, or towards long-term change. But I will say this; never underestimate the power of standing with someone in their suffering.
It comes down to the question, will we choose to be judgmental and take a harsh stance with our clients about their lack of progress towards change, as we have all done at one time or another. Or will we stand with them- where they are in the moment- and have compassion for their struggles, while still gently challenging them with the question “What do you want to do now?”
Compassion is the fourth element that Miller and Rollnick will add to the “Spirit” of Motivational Interviewing (MI) in the third edition of the main MI text, coming out soon. Compassion, means to suffer together with and it is more vigorous than empathy; an active desire to alleviate another’s suffering (Wikipedia). Maybe take a day or a week and experiment with this concept, move through your day with as much compassion for yourself and others as you can, and then just see what happens, see how you feel, see how your clients respond, see where you get snagged and are tempted to move away from compassion. As Bill Miller said recently; “The clients we get are the clients we create” (MINT Forum, San Diego 2010). See what kind of client you can create with a hefty dose of compassion. Not a bad challenge for any of us as we move into the new year…