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Know Nothing

Uncertainty is a most uncomfortable feeling for both clients and therapists alike. Clients want answers, and therapists want to provide. Both in and out of therapy, human beings are meaning-making organisms. We need the world to make sense, and when it doesn't we feel lost and confused. So compulsive is this need that we will make sense of our experience using preexisting paradigms, even if inapplicable, rather than tolerate the discomfort of not knowing. The problem, however, is that when this dynamic gets reenacted in the therapeutic setting, we fail to serve the clients who come to us for help. In fact, by giving in to the pull to resolve confusion, we risk moving our clients further into it. After all, they already have a narrative, a story around which their identity is constructed, a set of organizing principles that inform their perception of the world around them. By moving too quickly to infer, elucidate, confirm, we often reinforce the very narratives that have become limiting and no longer applicable to their lives today. As therapists, we must approach the consultation hour with curiosity and openness. As tempting as it may be to believe that we know and understand, our clients are better served when we question first. By starting from a place of knowing nothing, so to speak, we give ourselves and our clients the opportunity to learn something they were not already aware of, to expand the parameters of their mental framework, and to make space for the entirety of their beings.

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