The Best Words Ever Written and How They Impact Your Focus in the Therapeutic Relationship

Maya Angelou once wrote, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

My son is now a little over a year old, and when I think about the kind of mother I want to be, this is the line that repeats in my head. Maybe I won’t do everything perfectly, and maybe he will make huge mistakes that cost him, time, money, or headache, but as he is going though all of that, do I want to be remembered as the mom who didn’t support him, or the mom that was there for him? Would I rather be right and make him feel disrespected and silly, incapable, or would I rather be the mom who empowers him and makes him remember that he can do anything he puts his mind and effort towards? I want to remember to pick how I am making him feel over the point I am trying to make or the justification my ego is seeking of my rightness. I mean, who doesn’t love a good “I told you so?”. But I need to not put ahead of my relationship and risk something great in the long run for something short term and short sighted.

This applies to our therapy practice because, although as a therapist I am very different towards my clients as I am a mother to my son (don’t worry!), I can apply this line as a litmus test for how I am doing.

How am I making people feel as they come into my space? How am I making people feel as they sit with me? I can write it all off as their own projections, but I also have ownership in this relationship. Am I creating a welcoming, calm, loving space? Or is it busy, disorganized and half hazard? Am I taking the time with each client to greet them with a heartfelt hello? Or am I rushing them in after just rushing someone out?

Am I really seeing and hearing the person in front of me, or am I thinking of my long to do list.

So often we get caught up in the theory behind our work, the philosophy, the training we adhere to, the outcomes we are seeing (or aren’t seeing) that we forget to check in and tend to the very real human right in front of us. Who is often craving to be seen, heard, and listened to. I had a bit of an existential crisis about how effective therapy is and what technique really is the best. And then I realized that it is rare in today’s world to have an hour with somewhere where no electronics are involved and where you get to speak and be heard without interruption. To me, that is already a huge thing of value. Something to be honored and respected.

We can INCREASE THE VALUE OF WHAT WE ARE OFFERING by honoring the space that we are holding for others and paying close attention to how our actions and choices are making them feel.

Am I spreading light in my practice, or am I too busy focusing on everything else?

I want to make it my commitment to check in and notice how the space I hold is making others feel. I want to improve the space I am sharing with others (I enjoy using aromatherapy but sometimes get to hurried to start my diffusers, I have added a tea station to my office and added real cups because it felt better to me, and I keep thinking about how to incorporate fresh flowers). I want to improve my connection to others by pausing a little longer on the greeting to really take them in and welcome them.

What can you do in your practice to beef up how you are making your clients feel? To take it to the next level? To go further and offer more? I encourage you to let this be your focus for a week and see where it takes you, what comes up, and where you can grow.

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