Safety is the Foundation
Safety is the foundation of all therapy. Our clients typically come to us because they are not feeling safe in some aspect of their life (internally or externally). Our nervous system is always scanning for danger. If therapists are not intentionally creating safety in the therapeutic relationship and are not attending to the safety throughout the relationship the therapeutic work cannot move forward. There are some areas we can begin to look at to assess how safe the space is for our clients.
Is the location of your practice in a safe place?
What other businesses are around? Is there a Police Station, ER, or Fire House nearby? Could the sirens be activating for clients?
Are there other sounds that might create sense of danger for clients?
Are there smells that might be overwhelming for clients?
Is the space organized in a manner that brings a sense of calm?
*If you are not feeling safe in the physical space of your practice it is likely your clients will not either because it is truly not safe, or their automatic nervous system will pick up on your sense of safety and register it as a threat.
Are you present with the client?
Are you attuned with the client?
Do you find yourself thinking of your next/previous client, your weekend plans, grocery list, etc.?
Are there factors that both of you are aware of that no one is naming out loud (i.e. rupture, race, gender, age, CPS report, scheduling or payment conflict, etc.)?
*There are many times that something out of our control can trigger the fight, flight, or freeze response for a client due to their lived experience. If we can be present, attuned, and regulated ourselves this can be worked through and provide a corrective experience for our clients. When clients receive these corrective experiences, they can then use these skills in relationships outside of the therapeutic relationship. Lastly, give yourself permission to refer out. If safety cannot be created in the relationship the therapeutic work cannot be done.
Check out the following podcast episodes for more on this topic:
Season 2: Episode 2 and 9