We invite an understanding of the whole person. It is through genuine and safe talking that new strength-based narratives, experiences and new possibilities for change arise. Conversations evolve in a spontaneous manner. As opposed to a typical office setting, the outdoor environment including telehealth provides an atmosphere of normalcy and caring. The horses and out of the office settings foster a milieu of nurturance, normalcy, love and acceptance. These settings provide an arena where difficult conversations become less difficult. The resulting conversations between therapist and client surround themes of surpassing trauma, building healthy relationships, managing conflicts, and promoting healthy strength-based self-identities. Through this process, the identities of selves change. We speak in the client’s language of suffering to co-evolve new meaning, thoughts, feelings, and interactions from the dialogue. We feel the client-therapist relationship is paramount for effective therapy. All of our clients leave with hope and new possibilities after the initial and subsequent sessions.
We wish to create an environment in therapy where one does not feel judged, but is allowed a conversational space where the client can lead us to what is important to talk about, “as a person”. The clients and their family or community of change are the prominent stakeholders in the direction of therapy and the desired change. Our belief is that clients need the freedom to express their thoughts in a manner that respects and hears their ideas for change. Once these ideas are expressed, the possibilities to make this happen are boundless.
Our Four Core Principles
There are four core principles that we operate upon:
In our experience, any participation with clients must derive from authentic collaboration. Our clients see themselves as the directors of their services. If services are not self-tailored to the needs of the individual in community, then the plans for services only serve ourselves! Clients wish and need to be in charge of their treatment and lives. We see our clients from strength-based perspectives. Our key is surpassing deficiency language in search of the authentic self in everyone.
All services are self-tailored to the client in community. We try to bring in all who are part of the client’s system. This could include schools, the courts and lawyers, mandated operations (CPS, Probation), potential employers, social workers, caseworkers, psychiatrists, specific friends or relatives, or anyone that can support the system. It is important to know their needs and have their collaboration to ensure goal orientated sustainable change.
In community based work we work within the entire system. There are continuous conversations between all involved. Therefore therapist, psychiatrist, social workers, client, and community support are all team players, empowering the client to gain self agency engages self responsibility in the client-led direction. This enables meaningful change to occur with client and inter-community goals.
Connection, Collaboration, Change
We wish to create an environment where no one feels judged but, rather, is allowed a conversational space where the client leads the practitioners to what is important to talk about. Clients need the freedom to express their thoughts in a manner that respects and hears their ideas for change. We talk in the client’s language (Lynn Hoffman referred to this as “kitchen table talk” where the words, ideas and meanings of the client surpass deficiency language). We work with all emotional and relational challenges in this manner on the premise that no one wishes to be talked at, but rather talked with.
Through establishing a connection of full presence within process ethics (Swim, 2001), the clients and their community improve and enhance communication, relationships, self-identity, and problem solving skills. Our authentic and transparent relationships with each client create sustainable transformation leading to collaborative client led change.
This client-therapist relationship refers to the completely shared and egalitarian experience of defining the focus and direction of therapy and community services and goals. Our clients are empowered to be active in how therapy can be the most proficient help for them. They are the stakeholders and impetus.
Transformation occurs with conversations that are self-tailored to the needs of the individual; supplementing institutional or modernistic theory driven goals. We do not treat clients with “cookie cutter” techniques for similar symptoms or distress. Each client is viewed as unique and a “Person” whose challenges occur within individualized and relational contexts. Our clients see themselves through our strength-based and hopeful lenses where process ethics ensure each client is unique and capable of change.
Process Ethics – Relational Connectedness Full Presence – Sacred Conversations
Full presence refers to a therapist’s posture of genuinely honoring and valuing the client’s and community’s narratives by speaking honestly and caringly, as well as co-creating genuine trust and humility, enabling the strengths of the client to abound. When we are believed and listened to then we can have the courage to create change within ourselves.
Process Ethics reflects that clients can transform and heal. The main premise of Process Ethics centers on what is the “right and good” for each person in therapy. These are individually tailored to each person in therapy and are collectively created through dialogue in the therapeutic discourse and relationship. Process Ethics cannot be replicated but needs to be integral each time we participate in therapeutic conversations.
Within Process Ethics, relational connectedness, full presence, and sacred conversations, clients’ innate strengths transcend extreme pain and symptoms. It is the role of the “therapist” to not get in the way of these actions and with good intentions. Accidentally we can contribute to the generation of new problematic narratives when these were not evident. We feel all therapeutic conversations are held in honor since the words of people are sacred. We are holders of information often never spoken out loud before.
It is our role not to make the original problem narrative worse by adding deficient language. In our attempts to help those that suffer we need to examine what we do and say that can unfortunately prevent healing from occurring. How do we prevent implanting our ideas or theories from being superimposed on someone? How do we not get in the way of natural healing?
It is an egalitarian partnership rather than a set of pre-determined standards.
Content ethics: standardized ethics, created and implemented without client collaboration. Traditional ethical inquiry and principles.
Client-driven: process in Collaborative Language Systems (CLS) or Collaborative-Dialogical Practices where the client is the expert ”knower” of his or her own thoughts, perceptions, needs, actions, and strengths (Anderson & Swim, 1993; Anderson & Swim, 1994; Anderson, 1997; Hoffman, 1992; Swim, 1995).
Local meaning: shared understandings and a local (dialogically) vocabulary, one that is developed between persons in dialogue, rather than…broadly held cultural sensibilities (Anderson, 1997, p. 158).