The word “engage” has been coming up a lot for me everyday and I somehow cannot resist writing about it. When I first was presented with the word engaged it was in reference to someone who was “engaged” to be married. When I thought more about the word, I became fascinated by the meaning.
What does it mean to engage?
How can we get engaged more to our clients?
How can we be more present for our ourselves?
What does it mean to be present and engaged?
When we are engaged we are present and open for whatever is happening in that exact moment. Engagement is about listening and learning from whatever we are present with. Engagement
is one of the keys to healing.
When we are present with our clients, we are able to listen to their stories without automatically thinking things like:
“This is the typical patterns of whiplash. I know exactly what I will work on”
“I can just see exactly what the problem is- I have seen this before”
” I know how to fix this”
I once had an instructor who often said “If you think you know where the problem is, you are probably wrong”.
I totally agree. If I am thinking, I am not present.
A client with carpal tunnel syndrome can go to 10 different massage therapists who will tell them 10 different things about what they need to do to get better and will focus on 10 different things in their massage session. What is right? All of them probably are. Which one will work the best? They all have some benefits. The problems that our clients present us with do not have one single correct solution. The solution comes from empowering the client to find the solution themselves.
Finding solutions with clients is addressed in a wonderful book that I highly recommend called “Interviewing for Solutions” by Peter DeJong and Insso Kim Beg.
The solutions come from learning how to listen and ask open ended questions to empower clients. When we work according to the medical model which requires a diagnosis and a plan of treatment, we are ignoring the components of the therapeutic relationship, one of which is engagement or empowering clients. When we are able to “meet” our clients where they are, with whatever pathology they bring with them, we are able to engage them in their healing process. Engaging clients to empower them means helping people discover the considerable power within themselves. Fixing on the other hand implies that something is broken. This is my favorite resource on fixing – what it means, how it is a control issue, what we can do to overcome our need to fix.
We attempt to “fix” our clients when we give them advice on what to do. We “fix” clients when we believe that only we have the correct answer and are of course “right”. “Interviewing for Solutions” suggest
that we start with a “posture of not knowing” and rely on the clients perceptions and explanations.
Even though we may have more knowledge of anatomy and pathology, it does not necessarily make us right. The clients are the only ones who know what is right for them.
Rescuing involves doing something for someone that they should be doing themselves. Our need to rescue often comes from our own unmet needs of being rescued ourselves. We act in the way we want to be treated, thinking that it will get us what we need. We take care of others so we won’t have to take care of ourselves. It is really just part of what I am calling “The code of the caretaker”.
When we are able to show empathy and compassion, we are able to empower the client to find out what they themselves need to heal. Empathy and compassion are ways of sharing the pain with them. (It is not taking on the pain. I believe we take on others pain when we haven’t addressed our own pain or taken care of ourselves so that we can meet that person who has pain. That will be another article) I have been “hyper” aware of this helping issue since I have been working on my own issues with helping and fixing. I know that when I sense that
I am being “fixed” I become resistant and defensive. When that happens with clients, the possibilities for healing become limited. The answer to helping and fixing is engaging with clients -meeting clients where they are, setting aside our thoughts, agendas and preconceived notions to create a container for healing to begin. Engagement also happens in the process of supervision. Working with a supervisor or peer supervision group will teach us how to become more engaged in every moment of our lives. We can learn more about how we engage or disengage with our clients when we are able to see ourselves and our stories more easily. In supervision, we are able to learn about our stories and how our thoughts have created our realities.