During this episode, Jennifer Agee, LCPC (she/her) discusses how therapists can utilize the basics of body and awareness and energy work to help gain deeper insight into our client’s needs.
Join me as I go down the hippy-dippy rabbit hole of energy work and body awareness!
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Jennifer: Welcome to Sh*t You Wish You Learned in Grad School. I am your host, Jennifer Agee, licensed clinical professional counselor, and today I wanna go down a hippie-dippy rabbit trail with you. I wanna talk about energy work. I absolutely love incorporating energy work with my clients and the longer I've been a therapist, the more I am aware of the role that understanding energy and how energy feels in the room can be extremely effective, not only as a clinician but for myself as an individual.
But I wanna speak to you as a clinician first. I wanna talk about energy first from a very basic standpoint, everything is made up of energy. Energy interacts with other energy, so in my mind, it's very logical that sometimes our client's energy will interact with us. So I have an example that I wanna bring to your attention. I get a very specific feeling in my body when people with certain mental health diagnoses come into my office. Have you ever experienced that as well? I know I do.
There are very specific things that come up in me and that I feel when a person, for example, with borderline personality disorder is coming into the office. Oftentimes I will feel it before I will be able to diagnose it. I’ve worked with enough clients that I know how that feels in my system and in my body. For me, what comes up with those clients is the extremely strong nurturer. Like the very nurturing maternal part of me wants to help the wounded bird kind of thing. I want to help heal. I feel that vacuum of unmet needs and unhealthy attachment has been, or hurt and trauma. And some part of me steps into that wants to step into that energy.
I've learned to tell myself and explain to myself like, hey there Jennifer, this isn't yours to hold. This is just diagnostically significant information for you to hold in your awareness so that you can determine later if this is something the client is dealing with, or not. Another example could be a narcissistic personality disorder. Sometimes when that comes in the room, there is a clear head and heart disconnection with me. I notice it, I feel it in my body. I feel a shift that takes place, which I think is my brain and body's way of saying, you might need to protect yourself or hold your boundaries a little higher around this, because there could be some glamouring that happens, right?
That false charm, that overpraising you for things that maybe you didn't even do yet that you have to be aware of. And my body gives me that message before I even have the experience. So my body knows answers sometimes before my brain knows the answers. And I've learned to connect the two to just allow myself space to be curious about what's happening in my body and how I'm interacting with a client in the room.
I wanna tell you another cool example of how this happened. I was working with a client who, for the lack of a better word, he was a total a-hole. He really was, he was not very kind to his partner. He said some, well, some not great things, he was not very kind to his partner, not very kind to his kids. And I just kept having this feeling, something's not right here. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, his energy didn't match. There were physical cues too. His facial expressions did not match a lot of times, the story that was being told and my system knew something was off. I can feel something is off, I can see something is off.
So what I did is I just checked in with myself and I said, okay, show me what's happening, because I can't figure it out. I'm stuck with this person and I don't wanna hold this space in this room with this energy of, I just don't really like this client. I wanna figure out what's going on, why am I reacting in this way? And oftentimes answers will come to me in dreams. My body will gimme those answers and dreams, If I'm really thinking about it before I go to bed and kind of set that intention, and that's what happened in this case.
I set that intention before bed, this very stuck place with this client, and I'm not quite sure where to go from. And what was revealed to me was that there was an accident. I was given some specifics about that accident, and when it happened and what happened in the accident. So fast forward, the next time I see the client, I'm talking to him and his partner, and I said, okay, tell me what was going on around X period of time in your life.
There was a really bad car accident. So tell me about that car accident, all these things that I had been shown in my dream were confirmed for me by the client. And what I came to realize was this client actually had a TBI, that's why things were not matching, but my system told me something is not right. So when your system starts giving you these messages when you can feel something isn't right, that is diagnostically significant information, and you do not want to ignore that. Lean into it.
Notice how your energy feels when you work with certain types of clients. Are there certain types of clients that feel like they're just not your type of clients? That's okay. Their energy doesn't interact well with your energy or maybe the energy of their childhood trauma is sparking something in your past childhood trauma and it doesn't interact well together. There's unresolved and/or unhealed spaces in both places where that combination might not be very good.
So I want you to give yourself permission to lean into and pay attention to how you physically feel when you are with clients. Are you with a client that maybe has ADHD, pretty severe ADHD. And you notice that when you're with the client, your head feels kind of swirly or it's hard to hold thoughts. What I've learned to do is to trust my system and I'll often check in with the client and I'll ask, Hey, My head's feeling kind of swirly. It's hard for me to put a lot of thoughts together right now, is that how you are feeling or is that something coming up in me?
More times than not, the client will say yeah, that’s how I feel. That's exactly how I feel every day or that's how I'm feeling right now. The next step that I take is, I thank them and I thank my body for giving me that information. I just want your body to know, thank you for giving me that information. I received the message of how difficult this must be sometimes to get through life and have to sit through boring conversations and in business meetings.
And I'll tell my body, thank you for receiving that message, but we don't have to hold that. We receive the information and it's okay to not hold that anymore. And I give myself permission to then let it go. I received the information, which was incredibly helpful for me getting insight from my client, But I did not hold it. Do not hold what does not belong to you.
You can be aware of what's happening in the room. And it's actually very helpful to be aware of what's happening in your own system while you're working with the client. But remember, this is not yours to hold. You are holding space for the inter the individual, but their energy is not your energy to continue to hold. So be intentional with allowing yourself to thank your body for allowing you to receive that information and release that energy, knowing that it's not yours to hold.
This has been my hippie-dippy moment. I'll tell you I could go down the rabbit hole a lot further with this stuff, but I did wanna provide that insight. It comes up a lot in clinical supervision. When I work with people, I noticed this theme where certain clients spark certain kinds of feelings in my supervisees, and I just want people to know that's super normal. Not only is it normal, it's super freaking awesome because you are getting great intel for how it is that your client may be feeling, of what might be happening with them. It is important information. Receive the information, do not hold onto their energetic feeling though, but just receive the information and thank your brain and body for giving it to you.
I hope you enjoyed a hippie-dippy moment. If you want to connect further with me: counseling community.com, or if you look below on Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, I'm pretty accessible. Or if you wanna come on a retreat with me, click below too, I've got plenty of those to offer. I hope y'all have a great day. Bye.