The Gifts I Receive from My Nutrition Counseling Clients
I love gift giving. And as someone who celebrates Christmas, gift giving is front of mind this time of year.
But lately I’ve been reflecting a lot on the gifts that my clients have given me over the years and wanted to share a bit from my heart as we close out 2023.
Over the past couple of months, I’ve been eyeball deep in a Pretty Big Project (PBJ). This PBJ has required that I dive into the literature on counseling strategies. In particular, Relational-Cultural Therapy (RCT), which has been one of the most informative therapeutic approaches to my work.
RCT is a very special therapeutic framework for a host of reasons (too many to describe for the purposes of this newsletter). But, in particular, it focuses on the RELATIONSHIP as central to the healing process. In fact, thanks to advances in neurobiology, we know that we are neurologically wired to relationally connect. Our brains literally grow in connection, whereas neurons wither and die in the absence of warm, empathic relationships.
Most often, clinicians focus on how therapeutic relationships benefit the client. But that’s only half the story. Do you want to know what is said to me quietly and in the privacy of clinical supervision?
- “I’m a better person because of the work I do with my clients!”
- “My clients are my greatest teachers.”
- “I’ve learned how to be less judgemental of myself.”
Jean Baker Miller, the psychologist who developed RCT wisely noted, “If growth is to occur in any relationship, both – or all – of the people involved have to change.”
For the 14 years I’ve been providing outpatient nutrition counseling for eating disorders, I have listened to the struggles and suffering of my clients. The practices of deep listening, withholding judgment, and a genuine offering of empathy transform me on a daily basis.
In turn, my clients share their grace, vulnerability, and inner wisdom. Of course, I am deeply affected by this practice of giving and receiving! I get to witness the universality of pain, shame, striving, grief, and so much more. This front seat to the human experience gives me perspective, the ability to hold multiple truths at once, and a more generous spirit.
NOW. If you could talk to my husband, he would inform you I am no saint. No, no. I am a work-in-progress just like you. But because of my work, I think I have a bit more room for my own messiness because I see it as part of the grand human experience. I am not a monster, even though I act like it sometimes.
So I would like to extend a very big thank you to my clients, my supervisors, my supervisees, and my colleagues for being a part of my network of “growth fostering relationships,” which nurture, strengthen, and inspire me each day.
I hope each of you are able to feel meaningful connection this holiday season and have a moment to pause on the gifts you feel grateful for.
If you are inspired by Relational Cultural Theory/Therapy or simply want to learn more, I highly recommend “Relational-Cultural Theory” by Judith V. Jordan.