Empathizing With New Patients

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Empathizing With New Patients

Trying something new for the first time can cause quite a bit of anxiety. I felt pretty anxious before I went to my first barre class (you know, that trendy exercise fad right now combining Pilates, yoga and ballet?). I imagine this is what it feels like for some of our clients to start therapy. Don’t get me wrong, I have been on the other side and have been a client myself in therapy. The only thing was, I wasn’t anxious at all to begin. In fact, I was really excited and enjoyed it very much. However, I know this really isn’t the case for a lot of people who come to our office.

Anyways, I started to think about this, as I was getting ready to attend my first barre class recently. I had gone through all the motions to make it happen. For instance, searching for the best place to go, researching costs, looking at the schedule, and finally booking (and cancelling and rebooking) a class several times. Once the morning finally arrived for me to go, I had run out of excuses to bail (trust me I looked for one). It was time for me to show up. Again, this was beginning to really parallel what most of my clients tell me they experience during the process of showing up to the chair in my office.

It’s interesting the anxieties we can conjure up when starting something new. This particular morning, I was planning to go to the office to meet with one scheduled new client and then I was going to attend my class. However,  the client didn’t show up. This somehow provided more motivation for me to get to the class. However, suddenly I could also empathize with the client and the fears about starting something new. In this case they had decided to no show instead of show up.

I felt disappointed but decided to head on over to my class as I was not going to no show and had made the decision to show up despite the overwhelming insecurities I was experiencing. Entering the studio, I immediately felt vulnerability set in and wondered, “Are they judging me?” Again, I wonder if this is what some of my clients are thinking and feeling when they come for their first session? In that moment I tried to focus on my goals. Someone had recently posted on Instagram they had set out on their own wellness journey and had two goals:

  1. Start
  2. Don’t stop.

I felt those were pretty good goals and advice I needed to take as well. Just like in therapy, today I was setting goals and making a commitment to myself.

The instructor greeted me with a warm, friendly smile and a listening ear. Instantly I felt more comfortable and excitement started to set in. The class started and immediately I noticed my mindset was shifting. I was present-focused and embraced the good, the bad and the ugly. This class was certainly outside of my comfort zone, but that is where growth happens. I could feel transformations already starting to take place just by deciding to show up and not no-show. Yes, part of me was relieved when the class was over. Mainly because I couldn’t breathe. The experience allowed me to work through a physically and emotionally painful experience but also allowed me to increase my tolerance and acceptance skills…much like a therapy session and the therapeutic process.

As my spaghetti legs wobbled down the stairs to my car after the class was over, I felt proud of what I did. I didn’t no show, I showed up and was excited for my next scheduled session.

What is holding back your clients from showing up?

Alycia Burant, MA, LPC, NCC is founder, owner and therapist at Healthy Minds Therapy in bustling Alexandria, VA. Her practice has three locations in Northern Virginia providing expert support and services for people in times of need. When she is not working, she enjoys relaxing with her family,  wine tasting, cooking and traveling.