How the See Me as a Person Practices Create Therapeutic Relationships

This content is taken from the book See Me as a Person and the See Me as a Person workshop, both written by Mary Koloroutis and Michael Trout.

 

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As you can see from the graphic on the left, the three therapeutic practices of wondering, following, and holding are shown here within a container of “presence through attunement.”

 

 

 

The “container” is Presence through Attunement.

In this work, to be present simply means to be attentive to someone without distraction.

Attunement means to “tune in” to others exactly where they are. It means being aware of their affect, their cues (both spoken and unspoken), and of their circumstances.  Attuning requires remembering that what might be routine for us in the care environment is extraordinary or even life altering for the person receiving care.  Many of us find presence difficult—particularly when we are in environments in which distractions are the norm. What Koloroutis and Trout have discovered, is that the conscious practice of attunement—the conscious practice of tuning in to someone or even something—actually creates presence.

Presence is a tough concept for people, but attuning is a practice that makes it easier. Attuning is a thing you can DO which helps you to simply BE.

The first therapeutic practice is Wondering.

Wondering is a practice of discovery grounded in curiosity and genuine interest in the other.

The therapeutic practice of wondering prevents us from drawing conclusions too quickly, which, among other things, can cause us to disconnect with people prematurely. We may be tempted to chase a quick solution or move to the next task, and in doing so, we may miss important information about the person in our care.

The second therapeutic practice is Following.

In this work, following is the practice of focusing on what the patient is saying and allowing the patient’s perspective to guide your care. It is the practice of listening to, respecting, and acting on what we learn from the patient and the family.

This practice is usually the hardest one to grasp, but you may be able to see it more clearly by looking for just a moment at what clinicians (and people in general) sometimes do instead of following.

When a patient expresses fear, for example, following is not saying, “You’ll be fine; the doctor is on her way.” Following is allowing the patient to have his or her emotions and perhaps asking for more information, squeezing a hand more tightly, or even just allowing the reality of what the patient is going through to register on your face. In order to follow, you have to be able to be with people in their distress, and respect, appreciate, and learn something from their responses, about who they are and what they’re going through.

The third therapeutic practice is Holding.

Holding is devotion to patients and their families. Our sense of devotion causes us to protect them in every possible way, including how we speak about them and how we allow others to speak about them.

Holding is creating a safe haven for healing in which people feel accepted and held with dignity and respect.

The significance of the therapeutic practices:

The three practices of wondering, following, and holding, when practiced within a container of presence through attunement, create therapeutic relationships.

 

Mary Koloroutis and Michael Trout have given definition to what already happens in your best patient/family interactions. You already do all of these things when you’re at your best. The formula for creating therapeutic relationships comes directly from the work of looking at successful patient-clinician interactions and discovering what they’re comprised of. It’s the very definition of “good science” in action:

1)     Study what works.
2)     Figure out why it works.
3)     Consciously practice the things that are shown to work.

The purpose of deconstructing these interactions and giving definition to the individual practices that comprise them is to take the mystery out of therapeutic relationships. The ability to connect authentically can no longer be seen as one of those things where you’re either born with it or you’re out of luck. Authentic connection can be learned, reflected upon, practiced, and mastered.

To learn more about the See Me as a Person workshop, click here.