Therapist/Client Perspective Taking Poem

One of the processes that allows for the development of self-compassion in highly shame-prone and self-critical people is the ability to take the perspective of a warm and caring other person. Therapists are often able to offer that caring perspective on the client’s experience. We at ACT with Compassion encourage therapists (including ourselves) to intend to see the client as whole, complete, and perfect even when, and perhaps especially during the times when the client sees himself as flawed, broken, or unlovable. Therapists may use self-disclosure to help the client access a warmer perspective on their own experience, or they may invite the client to physically sit in their seat and look at their own experience from the therapist perspective.

In considering the power of the therapist’s perspective to inform the client’s self-to-self relation, I wrote this poem depicting the client’s perspective on the left and the therapist’s perspective on the right:

From this chair

From this chair

I’m broken and lost and
Alone with a capital A         
My feelings are toxic
Thoughts are mentally ill
And not to be trusted
I'm hopeless.
You must want me
To just leave you alone.

I see fear and hiding
But more than that
I see you trying
To open your heart to
The fullness of youness
And there is hope.
What I want you to know
Is you're never alone.







In my experience, it can sometimes be challenging to maintain the flexible and caring perspective that is depicted in the chair on the right in this poem. The more often I hear the story on the left repeated week after week or month after month, I can start to doubt whether my caring and warmth make any difference at all, and my own shame and self-criticism can creep in. But I aspire to be the chair on the right as often as possible, and I wrote this poem, in part, to help me remember.

How do you encourage yourself to maintain a “right-side chair” perspective toward your clients? Towards others in your life? Towards yourself?

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