Clive asks for feedback

The voice of the client needs to be heard, but including it on a website presents difficulties.

As members of the BC Association of Clinical Counsellors, we are not permitted to seek testimonials.

In any case, it would be wrong to ask a client for something to use for advertising. However strong the relationship, however willing the client, there is still a power imbalance and vulnerability. And, of course, the client's name could not go with the testimonial or confidentiality would be lost.

But web-designers and marketing people are adamant that a website should include the voice of those who have used the service. They have a point.

Is there a way to square this circle? Perhaps there is.

I'd say Clive is super-reliable. He's also flexible, easy to contact and connect with when I have time-sensitive issues.
He's very knowledgeable about ethical thinking and has been very supportive as I think ethical questions through.
He's enough of an iconoclast for me to trust I will be met and understood by him.
I trust in his unconditional positive regard which means I can bring the professional issues about which I feel most vulnerable to discuss with him. This is really important because it's the things we don't have safe space to discuss that trip us up.
My experience working with Clive has been nothing but AMAZING. He embodies "client centeredness" and fosters an extremely safe environment to discuss anything and everything (both on a professional level as well as personal) without feeling judgment or shame. I seem to "attract" extremely difficult and complex cases and Clive has been able to help me with every single one..... He is open, extremely knowledgeable and an absolute pleasure to work with. He has helped guide and direct me while at the same time giving me the space to make my own decisions without feeling pressure to make those decisions. He offers much more than ethical decision making. I have never felt "alone" when speaking with Clive. His presence is strong and his emotional attunement is very powerful. These two elements together define what it's like working with Clive. I have grown tremendously as a clinician since working with him, and I attribute much of my success in my career to him. If you are looking for a "one of a kind experience" look no further. Call Clive.

Revising A Plan

My first idea was to collect feedback and offer a synopsis, a paraphrase. But how do I paraphrase such a warm and positive response? It is deeply humbling.

Best I let people speak for themselves.


The Feedback Approach

Clive provides professional support and consultation to fellow counsellors, and he works with colleagues in other helping professions. They understand the 'no testimonials' predicament. And although issues of power and vulnerability remain, they are much less acute.

Accordingly, Clive has begun to request anonymous feedback from those 'professional clients' who wish to provide it. The feedback is emailed to a colleague who removes any identifiers, waits until she has several pieces of feedback (further increasing anonymity) and then forwards it on.

My experiences using Clive's services have been exceptionally valuable and highlights include:
timeliness of services
pro-rated session fees to amount of time used
ethical knowledge and skill at helping a client work though an ethical dilemma
willingness to support the therapist in any aspect of his/her life that impacts the therapy, even if it is personal work
significant research knowledge
sense of humour
exceptional competence to guide complex issues
ability to seamlessly shift from personal work to a meta-cognitive perspective which helps the client learn how to use the skills in his/her own work
willingness to “find me” if I’ve dropped off of the grid
One thing that is unique to the service he offers is availability. Within reason and depending on the urgency one can always get hold of Clive or book an appointment soon. Secure email and phone make him very accessible. But it is not just the time, it is his being present with an alert mind and emotional availability which helps me to know that he quickly grasps my situation.
Clive is authentic in our professional relationship. It helps me to trust him because I know I won't get sanitized half-truths and feel-good phrases. There is a lack of jargon, no manualized solutions, and no quick fixes. Instead there is depth, searching for what is true, spiritual openness, and wisdom that comes from experience in a real world.
Acceptance is how Clive works. For me that makes hiding or avoiding anything unnecessary because no matter what I disclose I will be accepted and as a result I can work on things that are hard for me to admit or accept.
Clive is like a Sherpa mountain guide. He is not the mountain peak ;-) and neither am I ;-), but he is extremely skilled in guiding me where I want to go.

Clive Reflects

This feedback portrays contemporary, person-centred practice. No surprises there. But the degree of empathy and emotional understanding that I bring are, I am told, unusually high, and my commitment to the journeys of my clients and those I support is 100%. Within reason, I like to be available when really needed—better a 15 minute call at 10pm than the consequences of an ill-judged choice.

A philosopher as well as a therapist, I have capacity for scepticism, logic, and symbolic analysis. Combined with empathy that helps me to understand—to enter another's world—and that plus real acceptance opens most doors over time. I am allergic to jargon and unnecessary complexity. If something cannot be said in ordinary language then it is not ready to be said in public.

One piece of feedback will cause some counsellors unease. Under the broad umbrella of 'supervision', I am equally willing to consider practical, ethical dilemmas; puzzle over hard-to-understand clients; teach experiential focusing; discuss research; or help with personal issues. Although I think I can make a good case for clearly separating supervision and personal-therapy—and I think I understand why some insist on a separation—I am more flexible. I can often teach more by offering therapeutic help to a colleague than in any other way. And I find that I can still say I don't think that's a good idea...

Is This For Real?

A reasonable question. Judged by what's said here, Clive should be a saint or Bodhisattva.

He isn't, of course. He's a greying, sometimes 'difficult' human being with the usual needs, wounds, and complexity. But this feedback is not really about Clive. It is about how Clive takes part in a therapeutic or supportive relationship. It is that kind of relationship which is so different.

The counselling relationship is for the other in a way almost unknown outside counselling once we reach adulthood. It is a relationship which is not transactional in the sense of I will provide for your needs if you provide for mine. The counsellor's needs are not part of the relationship. Thus 'Clive'—as known to those who experience his needs, etc—gets mostly set aside when working with clients and supervisees.

If it doesn't sound too strange, I intentionally step aside from myself in order to be there for my client. It is remarkably liberating. It is a kind of spiritual practice which, if carried over into the rest of life, probably would move in the direction of sainthood. But I'm not going there any time soon.

The query Is this real? also asks whether this feedback was invented by the 'recipient'. No. I couldn't make it up. If you doubt me, please, contact me, and I will put you in touch with those who can vouch that this is genuine feedback.