Sylvia Sandler, M.A., MFTi
Speed Up to Slow Down
Dear LA-CAMFT friends and colleagues:
Last summer while I was working out, my yoga mat slipped under my feet as I stepped on it causing me to fall and land hard on my right side. My immediate reaction after my fall was to simply get up and resume my workout as if nothing had happened. In fact, I continued my daily workout routine as if I had not suffered a fall despite experiencing soreness for weeks. I figured that this was just one of those times I should apply the following adage, “when life knocks you down, you simply get back up again.” Little did I know that I would come to greatly regret this thought process in the weeks to come.
Then about a month and a half later, I woke up in the middle of the night in agony. In the morning, I scheduled an appointment with my primary physician, and after a follow up visit I was given a referral to begin working with a physical therapist to address symptoms related to my fall. Thank goodness, my overall recovery has been steady. And then, I got in my own way again.
Recently while at a physical therapy appointment I experienced a “flare up” as I engaged in the prescribed exercises. I began experiencing intense discomfort, and I wondered if the pain would come back with a vengeance. My physical therapist responded by asking me to stop what I was doing, and stated she noticed that I was pushing myself more than what she had expected. She then reminded me that “the purpose of physical therapy is to rehab and not to exercise.” Could my flare up be a sign of sacrificing process for expediency? I quickly gleaned that an important life lesson was hidden here. Thanks to my flare up I remembered the importance of being mindful of slowing down.
Slowing down is something that is a challenge for many of us because on face value it may appear that we are being prevented from getting done what we want to achieve. Yet, on a deeper level the idea of slowing down just makes sense. Slowing down does not have to imply that momentum is lost or that our plans are coming to a halt. Slowing down is simply a shift in intensity. In this way, rather than picturing slowing down as an interruption of growth, this process provides the building blocks for a more secure and deeper connection.
When working with a client, a therapist needs to be mindful of meeting the client “where they are at.” Inherent in the experience of connecting with others is the notion of slowing down. Building a therapeutic alliance takes time and is dependent on process. Without patience, the therapist’s attempt at building trust and rapport with a client just would not be possible. Additionally, slowing down can be particularly useful when working with a resistant client. Resistance usually develops when the therapist is out of sync with the client. The therapist might be moving the therapy at a pace in which the client is not yet ready for. If a client is coming into therapy for the first time and perceives therapy as something that people engage in as a way to “fix them,” the perfect antidote to this process is to slow down and simply stick to the basics of just getting to know the client as they are. Once the client feels comfortable and realizes that you are working to validate, understand and accept them as they are, clients will most likely let go of their defenses and join in the therapeutic alliance.
Making clients feel and stay safe is paramount to those in the healing professions. This means not rushing through the therapy. Healing from a physical or emotional injury takes time. Being able to sit with discomfort is never pleasant, and simply pushing it to the side will do little to make it go away. Healing is dependent upon acceptance of what is, and taking one’s time in general. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter how quickly you get to your destination. What matters is staying on course and being mindful of arriving safely at the end of your journey. I invite you to reflect on your life and decide how the process of “slowing down” can positively impact your day to day and ultimately your personal and professional journey.
With much gratitude,
Sylvia J. Sandler, M.A., is a Registered Associate Marriage and Family Therapist, #90381, and editor of Voices for LA-CAMFT. Sylvia is currently being supervised by Jose Cabrera LMFT #49450 at The Ness Counseling Center, and before that she worked at Chabad Treatment Centers. Sylvia supports clients dealing with addiction recovery, anxiety, depression and trauma. Sylvia is bi-lingual and fully proficient in reading/writing in Spanish. You may reach her by email at email@example.com.