Body and Soul
The client-centered approach

“You should see my colleague,” he said after assessing my shoulder and neck area and determining its range of motion or rather, lack of it. “She is very skilled at working with trigger points and fascial restrictions, and would be a good person for you to work with at this point in your recovery.”

“What a breath of fresh air,” I thought. “This guy really cares about my well-being, and honors his colleagues` knowledge to boot. He seems to have good intentions and a lot of integrity.” I felt that I could really trust him, more so than the therapist I had seen before, who claimed to know so much more than others, but seemed to focus more on making that point than being really present with me. In fact, by putting down his colleagues` abilities he made me question his ethical integrity as a person rather than admire him for his superior knowledge.

Naturally, I didn’t think any less of the therapist who recommended his colleague to me, openly admitting that she was more experienced in dealing with this particular situation. I appreciated his professionalism, his setting aside of any personal motives for my benefit, as well as the knowledge about her specialty and the resulting skilled and informed referral.

As the name implies, client-centered therapy is all about the client. What does the client need, what would most benefit him or her? Who is the ideal person to work with this particular client in this particular situation?

In order to make the best and most appropriate referral, it behooves therapists to know what their colleagues and fellow health professionals are doing and are good at. I remember how welcome and respected I felt when I moved into a new office space and was approached by a longtime healing arts practitioner who had an office in the same building. She asked me for a trade, so we could get a sample of each others’ work in order to make appropriate referrals when needed. Another time I was positively impressed while seeing the office of a therapist, who had business cards of health professionals in related fields all lined up on a shelf, and encouraged me to add mine. What a far cry from the all-too-common fear-based dog-eat-dog mentality that perceives others as threats, dangerous competition, even enemies who try to take away what we have. At times, I‘ve come across this negative attitude when attempting to extend the same courtesy to fellow practitioners that I’d been shown by my colleague when she asked me for an informative trade for the benefit of future clients.

Aside from the client-centered approach, there is also a more “business-centered approach,” where work as a general rule does not get referred out of house because that would mean less income. Of course, as a client, one can always protect oneself by asking for specific qualifications and inquiring about the years and level of expertise a practitioner brings to the table, before committing to an appointment.

Now, you might wonder why it requires skill to make a beneficial and appropriate referral. Isn’t it just information and knowledge that’s needed? Absolutely not! Once again, it is the whole person that needs to be taken into consideration. Sure, we need to ascertain that the therapist we’re referring to has the necessary technical skills to adequately address the situation. However, people are vastly different, and one person’s straightforward and no-frills approach appreciated by a pragmatic personality might seem cold and insensitive to someone with a more delicate and sensitive disposition. Then there is the quality of touch, the pacing, the ability of a therapist to relate to certain circumstances more than others, that can inspire confidence in a client and result in a beneficial work relationship, or not.

To return to our initial scenario, in my case the referring therapist was spot on. Along with his assessment of my neck and shoulders he assessed my needs on a much deeper level, perhaps with a mixture of healthy intuition and years of experience based on keen observation. In connecting me with the person who was an ideally suited therapist for me at that time, he not only acted in my best interest, but also set a stellar example of the art of mutually beneficial cooperation.

Imagine a world where we could all help each other in similar ways, magnanimously enhancing each others’ lives, rather than feeding the rat-race mentality by attempting to “take out” the competition in order to survive.

What we put energy toward grows, right? The choice is always ours.

A licensed massage therapist with a private practice in Moab, Ata Susanne Morse can be reached at 435-260-2874 or at [email protected]

ByBy Ata Morse