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Above the Clouds

Authenticity

Above the Clouds
Crystal Salt

Aspiring to
authenticity

Gradient

Authenticity is the aspiration to attain the fullness of being...via breathing , envisioning & enacting our thoughts...the highest vibrational manifestation known even above love.

 

As embodied envisionists seeking the paths ourselves, ensures our potential ability to realistically & ethically support others on their navigational journeys.  As we illuminate the way we must continually self reflect and work to authenticate our own wholistic life journey, attempting to fill spaces of effervescent learning and ongoing life experience to a place of understanding, acceptance and loving ourselves and others. We convey and support others as we acknowledge to a healthy degree our own process of understanding. Our attainment of skills and working confidence is assuredly inauthentic if we project the image of a perfect professional, we are better served working to be empathetic human beings who are comfortable with uncertainty and honoring the journey ourselves. People aren’t put at ease by overly professional behavior, demeanor or terminology. While we need clearly to have honed working knowledge about how to support others through life transitions and that change can be conceptualized and enacted, as much as is possible, we must present and embody authenticity... to be a human being and a person first.

People can tell when you're artificially putting on a facade and it disengages them from their own truth and authenticity and truly in-authenticates the experience of an intake and subsequent sessions, creating more of a barrier to their release and potential growth. Your genuineness as a clinician or staff establishes & builds rapport for the healing process. 

Here we'll discuss therapist authenticity for individuals in practice. 

What is Therapist Authenticity

Burks (2012) did a phenomenological study on therapist authenticity, wherein they defined it as "matching of one’s inner thoughts, beliefs, and feelings with one’s outer presentation and behaviors...[it] involves sensory and emotional qualities rather than purely cognitive or verbal qualities." 

Authenticity is an active process, something we do purposely in each situation, rather than being a binary, static identity trait. Therapists weave their thoughts and emotions together with their professional care and knowledge, in a way that lets us genuinely resonate with clients (Morrill, 2018). It’s something we practice, that we can move in and out of fluidly.

We have to be able to establish and sustain our own healthy living needs adeptly and amply enough to be deeply present with clients. Therapists “create a space for authenticity by being genuine, embodying honest humility; allowing their feelings to come to the foreground in an appropriate manner, thereby demonstrating to the client that they are fully present for them; and not trying to be authentic but allowing authenticity to emerge naturally” (Burks, 2012).

A therapist’s responses are molded over time by sitting with people through suffering, healing, moments of grief, insight, and so on. Witnessing this much of humanity is extraordinary. It also leaves a mark, which becomes part of our authenticity. The effect is unique for each of us, but generally, practicing empathy so frequently can shift our perspective, clarify our priorities, and tends to move us toward humility, patience, and compassion. “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about”—except as therapists we do know about it. We hear, listen and allow processing helping individuals, couples, families & groups daily as they move through life adjustments and transitions every day. 

“Showing up as yourself” is  authenticity, which Brene Brown discusses here. She elucidates the idea of being a person who seems safe and able to listen to you while still having a personality. Brene exemplifies, suggesting that authenticity involves being “comfortable sharing your flaws and failures as much as your triumphs and successes.” We all have things about ourselves that are a bit “ugly”, and that’s okay. The more aware of it we are, the more we can accept it and manage it in session. Authenticity is influentially impacted by the work we do on our own healing, and understanding how our history informs our work with clients allows us to be more present and empathetic, Regular self care, daily practices infused into our lives for living well will support us on our own journeys of Authentic living.

Take a few minutes to Authentically Reflect:

  • Close your eyes & Take a deep breath allow what comes into the circle of your awareness to  be noticed.

  • Notice also what flows through the periphery...

  • Take a few minutes to write down the thoughts and any themes or inherent gratitudes, concerns or agendas that come to mind

  • Select the three to five primary themes or thoughts that have the most significance for you and share your feelings regarding those points

  • With each pairing acknowledge obstacles that may preclude you from authenticity and potential means of mitigating, palliating or apprehending these interferences, by addressing and evolving means of mediating through... addressing personally through plausible & potential self care practices

Three Self Awareness & Growth Orientation Sharings

To Potentiate Self & Interpersonal Connection 

& Facilitate Healthy Center Cohesion

Take a few minutes and share, openly disclose with a partner, this allows us to be vulnerable and to also connect with ourselves and another evolving self congruence and cohesion with another being...so similar to what we need to do intrapersoanlly, within ourselves,  as well as interpersonally daily with our work with colleagues and clients.

Optional Whole Group Epiphanies to Promote the Wholistic Health 

Facilitation of Feedback & Closing Sentiments

Impacts of Therapist Authenticity

Research suggests authenticity matters to client outcome (via therapist effects), and it seems intuitively desirable for clients. Two studies (Baldwin & Imel, 2013; Johns et al., 2019) found that counselors themselves account for about 5% of the variance in client outcomes. If that doesn’t seem significant, consider that the variance in outcome made by what counseling theory you choose accounts for a mere 1%

Every client has had their share of difficult interpersonal experiences: being lied to, mistreated, even abused. It’s reasonable to assume they’re seeking a safe, reliable therapeutic relationship that will aid in their healing (CCPA, 2014). Carl Rogers often discussed congruence (i.e., being yourself in session, without a professional facade) saying that this is most useful to a client.

One aspect of authenticity is transparency, which can be essential to the therapeutic process at times (e.g., if a client has experienced a lot of deceit in close relationships). Similarly, people who have experienced abuse and/or trauma can be hypervigilant, watching for signs that a therapist is unsafe to be vulnerable with. Admittedly, everyone wants to be able to feel comfortable and safe with their therapist, not just people who’ve had a particularly troubling experience. Also, clients can benefit when therapists allow themselves to be imperfect and show it when appropriate, which is convenient for the non-perfect among us. 

Therapists benefit from authentic practice. Masking our identities, thoughts, and feelings is exhausting, and its negative effects over time range from irritability to severe burnout. Masking diverts cognitive resources that we could otherwise use to improve our therapy. Further, masking implies that we’ve judged our ‘real’ identity as not good enough, and it takes courage to set that down and be authentic. Doing so can mean confronting the shame, judgement, anxiety, grief—or whatever wound got you to create the mask in the first place.

So far I’ve mainly focused on the context of moments or sessions. At a broader level, I think authenticity can also mean working in the right context for you, working with a particular population that you feel strongly about, or where it’s more typical to speak out on a specific social justice concern etc. 

sustaining Therapeutic Authenticity

Each of us has to determine own life balance “In a professional context, the therapist’s values, beliefs, thoughts, and feelings should be tactfully expressed with alternations of transparency and opaqueness, especially when working with clients of dissimilar beliefs,” (Burks, 2012). Self monitoring as well as feedback from colleagues & significant others in our lives is essential. 

It’s challenging to live consistently; maintaining authenticity in practice. Honoring ourselves and the work we embrace, it is essential to take ownership & responsibility for the daily aprehensions & faux pas we make. So how authentic should you be? The only honest answer is with integrity , is it is through our falling short and making mistakes that we learn and process with each other to help our growth and improvement regularly... A practice of breath and yoga daily ensures and working with interns, colleagues, our own therapist and partners...

Being authentic does not mean a therapist should be completely transparent with clients at all times. Selective transparency (only sharing certain aspects of ourselves, or a limited amount of various parts) can be of use. Yalom is a master of sharing his thoughts and feelings with clients and using the resultant depth in the therapeutic relationship for process work. Some parts of our identity probably don’t need to come to work with us, and other aspects we only show some fraction of. For example, if I’m very extroverted, love to tell stories, and employ my sense of humor constantly in my non-work life, those behaviours would show up in session pretty differently (though they may show up in a way that would serve the client, depending on the context). Regardless, client wellbeing is our priority when trying to decide. 

You don't have to agree with someone to listen to them and empathize. 

When clients mention a value of theirs that conflicts with your worldview, remind yourself of the purpose of counselling. If you have a strong alliance, perhaps you might bring up the concern later at a calm time, but is that your role? The client is not paying you to confront their unrelated beliefs that you don't like. Navigating dissimilar beliefs requires care and precision of language; consider that “even when literally repeating another person’s words, we always add something to it” (Morrill, 2018).

Honest disagreement with clients can be useful. Friedman (2020) provided a relevant anecdote: Jenny (a client) described behavior by their partner that Jenny perceived as problematic, but when the therapist refused to say the partner was “absolutely wrong”, Jenny was angry and felt unsupported. The therapist reminded the client that their relationship was “grounded in an authentic exchange of thoughts and feelings”, which paved the way to repairing that rupture. Confrontation can be necessary when done with the client’s interest in mind, and it’s even better when done authentically within a strong therapeutic alliance.

Burks also discussed the possibility of viewing ‘client resistance’ as our own inauthenticity, that in those moments we could instead reflect on ‘therapist resistance’ and how our poor application of the therapist role, strange motivations, poor boundaries, emotional reactivity etc is getting in the way. When we start blaming clients for not getting on board with our agenda for their lives, we need to reflect on countertransferenceboundaries, and burnout.

When a client shares about troublesome behaviour or shame, we can listen and empathize more easily when we recognize that similar things exist in our own histories. Acknowledging personal flaws can lead to less judgement and more compassion. “We’re all just walking each other home.”

Conclusions

Reflecting on actualizing authenticity in our lives...how can we literally and wholesomely concatenate or weave together the experiences of our heart, our own mindful perceptions and interactions with one another into a a flowing, balanced, dynamic process of daily living to make our lives and the lives of others manifest magnificently. Isn't this the Art of Living Well...?

 

Cynics will tout that the work of humanly supporting others and helping them navigate should be the work of clergy or liberally taught or shared without monetary compensation. So many of us in the actual professional helping field recognize the many years of education and ongoing fees associated with maintaining licensure so value the compensation. However this work absolutely must be done with absolute integrity and follow through, with generous presence and mindful authenticity.

 

Reflect on your own theoretical perspectives and what matters to you, and have the ability to seek whether is is Victor Frankl or Irvin Yalom, Carol Rogers or Rollo May that inspire your approaches as you evolve your sustainable practice in supporting others on their paths to embrace their best lives! 

Therapy has an intentional purpose. This is sacred, deep and profoundly impactful work. Support your personal being, psychologically, physiologically and physically in the process. Process with peers and professionals while on your journey of daily practice.  Daily serve clients and energetically employ resources  as we intensely discuss intimate, private thoughts and feelings addressing individuals most vulnerable concerns for 50 minutes. Despite how normalcy we attain and maintain. Release and rejuvenating practices are essential. Engaging genuinely and authentically improves the process and makes us better by allowing ourselves to be human. Research and hundred of clinical professionals concur it is most beneficial to ourselves as well as our clients  for us to be someone clients feel comfortable being uncomfortable with.

The reflection is how do we ourselves process information, typically the appraising, analytical and evaluative mind engages in recursion..thinking recursively facilitates solving a presented issue or problem by continuously simplifying the issue at hand until it becomes simple enough to be solved directly or through insight of the clients mind...that ah ha awakening. The recursive decomposition, simplifies making the issue more perceivable and slightly simpler until it can be grasped...We as counselors of others benefit those we are supporting through authentically being ourselves...as we authenticate  ourselves we are able to authenticate the existence of others..it is truly & absolutely a naturalistic coming to terms with ourselves in a wholesome loving way.

Sources:

Baldwin, Scott & Imel, Zac. (2013). Therapist Effects: Findings and Methods. (In book: Bergin and Garfield’s Handbook of Psychotherapy and Behavior Change (pp.258-297)Edition: 5th)

Burks, D. J., & Robbins, R. (2012). Psychologists’ Authenticity: Implications for Work in Professional and Therapeutic Settings. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 52(1), 75–104. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022167810381472

DK Therapy 410 S. Michigan Ave. Suite 928 ~ Chicago 60605 https://chicagocounselingandtherapy.com/authentic-therapist/

Cashman, A. 2014. https://www.ccpa-accp.ca/being-authentic-as-a-counsellor/

Friedman, S. 2020. https://societyforpsychotherapy.org/reflections-on-authenticity-in-psychotherapy/

Heslop, A. https://www.cyc-net.org/cyc-online/cycol-0606-heslop.html

Johns, R. G., Barkham, M., Kellett, S., & Saxon, D. (2019). A systematic review of therapist effects: A critical narrative update and refinement to review. Clinical psychology review, 67, 78–93. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2018.08.004

Morrill, Z. 2018. https://www.madinamerica.com/2018/01/importance-openness-authenticity-psychotherapy/

Schnellbacher, Jutta & Leijssen, Mia. (2009). The Significance of Therapist Genuineness From the Client's Perspective. Journal of Humanistic Psychology - J HUM PSYCHOL. 49. 207-228. 10.1177/0022167808323601. 

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Agenda

8:45-9:05 Relaxed Gathering Creating Space

9:05-9:15

Centering Breath & Settling into Process

9:15 

Contemplations on Authenticity & Introductions

9:30

Self Reflections, Intrapersoanl Inquiry

 

9:40 Breakout Sharings x 3

10:00 

Optional Whole Group Epiphanies 

10:30

Reiki & Overall Wellbeing Meditation

10:50

Concatenation ... Applications &

Closing Sentiments

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Dr. Heather Kline Schaffer, Ph.D., M.Ed., NCC, LPC

Heather is fully enthralled in her hearts calling. Her presence radiates as she wholly embraces individuals coping through life adjustments, crisis & trauma. With ardor & exceptional evaluative skills she helps those suffering to discover & evolve resources of resiliency to embrace the opportunity presented through life critical moments of transition. She embraces individuals as well as our community by actively engaging patients in insight oriented reflections, thoughtfully combined with the benefits of an Integrative Medical approaches engineered to alleviate suffering. She facilitates deepening awareness through the process to help all individuals embrace their potential of  living their best lives. 

She acknowledges over her fifteen years in practice, that thousands of evidenced based research studies now confirm an integration of the practices utilized for thousands of years ,in concert with state of the art modalities, is our best opportunity to live our best life.

 

She has been recognized by a US Congressman for her outstanding work with Individuals & Families moving through trauma & grief, inspiring & teaching integrative medicine, providing counseling, self care & therapeutic meditation, Tai Chi & Yoga in Public Healthcare Settings, the Corporate Sector & Private Practice as well as leading individual & group restorative retreats.

Supporting clients with a holistic approach utilizing the best practices of Functional & Integrative Medicine, she personalizes each treatment plan, working at the individuals pace to facilitate awareness, growth & inspiring healing!

She continues to learn & grow through her own daily practices while serving others and has attained her Doctoral Diplomat of Integrative Medicine & Optimal Health Practices,
National Board Certification as a Counselor, is a member of the American Counseling Association, Licensed Professional Counselor, Founder & Integrative Medical Director of Fernview Center, Clinical Director of Stress Management Center, Certified & Studied in Trauma Resolution, with Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, Harvard Trained Psychiatrist,
Student & Teacher in the practice of Unionizing the Body, Mind, & Spirit based on his teachings & writings of his work The Body Keeps the Score, 

 

Heather works individually, in small groups & at the corporate level in teaching & training on unionizing the body & breath to engage the parasympathetic autonomic nervous system to heal trauma and embrace optimal health & wellbeing, Her podcast series The Body & The Breath is available on Spotify, Podbean, and Online at The Art of Living well, & is utilized globally to help individuals live their healthiest lives both intrapersonally and interpresonally, She is a Certified Reiki Master, trained & certified with Mission Hospital with Avril Wilson, Mary Regina Asriel and continues to practice with Dr. Makiko Suzuki Fliss, three generational Reiki Master & graduate of Mt. Sinai as well as Meiji University in Japan. Heather is a Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist & has attained Yoga Certifications, Studied & Trainined with Aadil Palkhivala, Shiva Rea, John Baptiste, Angela Farmer, 'Shri Dharma Mittra & the India born yoga master T.K.V. Desikachar. She has completed Mindfulness Training with John Kabat-Zinn, PhD., and trained as a Meditation Student & Practitioner in the Styles of Thich Nhat Hanh, Pema Chodron, Tara Brach, Surya Das, & Paramahansa Yogananda.  She is Yoga Alliance E-RYT 500 level & has credentialed Fernview Center as a Yoga Alliance Continuing Education Provider for our community at large.

She individualizes treatment goals with all clients to attain optimal results and achieve their highest potential. Her comprehensive, person-centered approach is ignited by her love for all people. Her background in treating individuals coping with trauma, chronic pain, & terminal illness has helped her evolve successful integrative medicine & counseling practices & techniques.

Inspired through the process she whole heartedly embraces supporting individuals through life transitions & helping facilitate individuals, couples, families, and groups in discovering clarity through life changes.

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