I Used To Teach “Think Positively About Your Clients”
For as long as I can remember I have advised people to think positively about their clients, but now, I’ve changed that message a bit. While preparing to record this video I have 2 encounters that were racially motivated, which gave me the courage to share what has been on my mind for a while.
for many, many years. When I was teaching solution focused
brief therapy, I used to ask the audience and the people I was teaching to see
the best in their clients and that was the way that I was trying to express to
people that you, you have to look at your client through a very particular
lens. You have to look at your client in a very particular way in order to make
change. More likely than not these days. I actually want to talk about it a
little bit differently because instead of saying I want you to see you’re like
the best in your clients, what I want to invite you to do is give your client
privilege. Like I live in a world, I live here in the u s and I can’t help it.
Every time I turn on the news, every time I turn on television I see privilege
or the lack of privilege impacting certain people and it is, it is maddening.
It is frustrating. I myself have experienced opportunities
to not have privilege as an African American male in the solution focus field.
And I can tell you it is frustrating. It is. It is oppressive. It is dangerous,
it is difficult. Um, but it also shows up in the psychotherapy world. I want to
tell me what I mean and why it is so important to give your clients privilege.
But first let me let for a second. Let’s talk about privilege. So have you ever
had an ex situation where you are, so I’m going to, I’m going to use like a
silly couple of examples, but have you ever been driving down the road and
someone cuts you off and you’re super duper frustrated, you’re super angry and
you like drive up around like, I’m going to flip this person off. I’m going to
give this person a dirty look.
And when you pull up, it’s a really, really attractive
person and all of a sudden you start thinking, oh, maybe they’re in a rush or
maybe they didn’t see me. Right? That’s privilege where you continue to see the
good in people regardless of other circumstances. That’s what privilege looks
like. One of the things that I experienced when I came into solution focused
field is because I don’t look the way previous solution focus thinkers and
writers and lecturers have looked. People would accuse me of things that were
not accurate as the absence of privilege. People would say things like Elliot’s
not trustworthy. This woman named the Rhonda Nelson told me I was not welcome
in the solution focused house. Like she actually said that I was not welcome in
the solution focused house. That is the absence of privilege and we have to
remember that privilege. Given that it is the ability to see people through a
positive lens in spite of other circumstances, then it is important that we
know that one of our responsibilities in jobs in the psychotherapy room when
we’re doing studies books, brief therapy is to give our clients privilege
because our clients are going to come to us and they’re going to say things
like, you know, I drink too much or I experienced depression.
When I get depressed, I do this. When I get angry, I say
that, um, you know, they’re going to come and couples therapy and they’re gonna
say that I, I made this mistake or that mistake. They’re going to say, I’m not
in love with this person anymore. They frustrate me in this way. But it’s so
important that we maintain the ability to view them through a privileged lens
because privilege is everything and it’s everywhere. And it’s all the time. The
moment we stopped looking at people through a privilege lens, they stopped
being able to be their best self. I don’t think it’s, I don’t think privilege
is necessarily a bad thing. Uh, I’ve, I’m in situations where I actually
benefit from privilege as, as a male. I think what, what we, where it becomes
bad as our unawareness of privilege and how it impacts people who have it, the
advantages that those people get and how it impacts people who don’t.
Um, and we have to have honest conversations about this.
And I hope, I hope in society we get better at acknowledging privilege and we
get more aware and helping, helping people who struggle to attain privilege to
feel more welcome and equal. But in psychotherapy field, I also hope that we
understand that it’s important that we view our clients through a privilege
lens because that’s gonna make us better at, at helping that person. Um, being
in a position to change, it’s going to help us to view them through the ability
to change lens because I think what we’re actually talking about, whereas I
previously would describe it as, you know, view your client positively. We’re
actually talking about the decision to view people with privilege, the decision
to view people as privileged. Um, I was talking to a good friend of mine not
too long ago, guy by name of Evan George and we talked about how solution
focused brief therapy is a decision.
It’s the decision to go into the therapy context with
these thoughts that I’m going to hold on to and do these things, solution
focused brief therapy more than any other approaches that decision. So I want
you to make the decision to view your clients regardless of their circumstances
and regardless of who they are to view them through the privileged lens.
Because when you do that, people are much more likely to change and you are
much more likely to view them through a lens that makes change possible. And
that’s going to guide the way you talk to them. Because the simple truth is the
level of privilege with which you view someone also impacts the level, how you
talk to them. It’s so funny, like just before I made this video, I was
downstairs. As you can see, I’m on a rooftop from here in Portland, Oregon and
I was down downstairs standing on the corner on the phone and traffic is
whizzing by, traffic is just driving by and people, multiple people happen
twice, two times.
People hung out the window and started making motions like
this at me just cause I’m a black man standing on the corner. One Asian man and
one white man driving down the street started going like this to me as if
somehow I’m like this. That’s like the universal sign for hip hop. And do you,
how do you think those people would talk to me if that’s the lens they view me through,
if I encountered them in personal life, how do you think they would talk to me
if I encountered them in the professional life? And the answer is probably not.
Um, respectfully, probably not in a way that allowed me to become the person
that I want to be and grow. And, and we have to remember that it is our job to
view people in a way that gives them privilege and makes them feel welcome and
makes them feel equal and makes them feel a participatory.
It makes them feel respected because then people are going
to be in a much more position to, uh, make the requisite changes in their life.
Um, and I think, I think it’s important that we start talking about it in terms
of a privilege dynamic as opposed to view the best in your clients. Uh, I think
we have to, we have to make the decision to view all people as privileged and,
um, you know, look, obviously this is a sensitive topic and it, and it’s
happening everywhere in the world right now. And in the u s you know, the
current presidential administration, uh, makes this a daily thing. And, um, I
encouraged the conversation, like, leave a comment below. What did you think
about this video? How do you respond to what I’m saying? Where do you agree
with me? Where do you not agree? I think the conversation is much more
important, um, that we continue to have it whether you agree or disagree.
So please leave a comment below what your thoughts are.
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share it. So, cause I think it’s important to keep the conversation going and,
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