Clients in crisis
By Claire M. Schwartz
As healers and counselors, we offer support and comfort to those in need. We do this work because we care about others and because we want to be of service! But what about clients in a true crisis? We may be presented with urgent and dire circumstances – and how we respond may save a client’s life.
When I was undergoing Reiki training in an intense and in depth two-year program, we had a day where all of us got to practice doing sessions on friends. We were all in a large room with several massage tables, one for each of us, and our teacher, Margaret Ann Case, walked from table to table observing how we worked with and spoke to clients.
My first client that day was a friend and that went very well. But the second woman who came was not someone I knew personally. A friend had sent her to me, telling her about Reiki and telling me only that, “I think she could really use your help.” Eager to be of service, I made the appointment with her.
I was not prepared for what greeted me when I went to the waiting area to see her. She was clearly exhausted, unkempt, thin and strained to the point of breaking. She had not washed herself recently, she had a vacant stare in her eyes and her left hand shook. Due to her lack of hygiene, a discussion began between my teacher and myself as to whether I should see her or not.
It was clear to me that this woman was in dire need of help – any kind of help - and was hanging on by a thread. I insisted on her being allowed to stay, and not only did I treat her that day, but she became my client for over a year. It turns out she was in the middle of a severe nervous breakdown, in a deep depression, and was right on the edge of giving up all hope.
So here is my question to my fellow practitioners: how prepared are you when a client walks through your door? What if you have to deal with someone:
• suffering from severe depression?
• who is suicidal?
• recovering from surgery?
• in the midst of addiction? in the midst of recovery?
• suffering in a violent relationship?
• who has just lost a parent, spouse or child to illness or an accident?
• who walks in and bursts into tears, but can’t tell you what is wrong?
There are many skills that go into addressing these issues - Here are some ideas to consider:
• Take classes in specific areas and circumstances, such as crisis management, suicide prevention and domestic violence.
• Study grief counseling.
• Study addiction counseling.
• Take classes in a wide variety of specific counseling techniques and practice using them so you have them at your fingertips when they are needed.
These skills are not for marketing purposes, or to put certificates on your wall! They are to ensure that we are supplying only the best in care to all who seek us out.
It is also essential to have a resource directory to give to clients that includes contact information for other counselors and practitioners if there is an issue you think someone else might be better equipped to handle. Chiropractors, acupuncturists, aromatherapists, nutritionists, as well as psychiatrists and doctors in the area, can offer healing that is complementary with Reiki, write prescriptions if necessary, and help you network in the healing community to offer many options to all of your clients.
And what about if there is nothing you can do? I recently have had someone come to my office who is homeless, injured and in deep need of support. He has exhausted all the resources of the county and he is not allowed to leave the county. Can you turn someone to such desperation away? Sometimes the best assistance we can offer is to listen. But I also quickly realized that he needed much more than I could provide. He has since disappeared.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we must acknowledge that dealing with this type of client can be very draining. Do you have the training to stay grounded when confronted with these stark realities? As I teach my clients to care for themselves, healers must do so, as well – get any support you need, particularly having dealt with potential suicide or violence, and make sure you have someone more experienced to whom you can turn.
To work in a healing profession is an honor. When you hang out your shingle and it says Healer – Teacher – Counselor – people are going to come to you for help. The wrong response can, even with the best of intentions, send someone over the edge. Let’s make sure we help more than we harm.