I am a huge advocate for using a strengths-based perspective. So when I meet with someone for session, I am going to ask "what's strong in you?" rather than "what's wrong in you?"
When I would have resident physicians shadow me as a therapist in Tallahassee, I would often get asked questions that focused on finding connection with adolescents and finding ways to get to the roots of presenting mental health issues.
I will never forget a specific conversation I had with a resident one day. He told me that during his rotation in the emergency room, he said he had seen an adolescent patient who attempted suicide by slitting his/her wrists and didn't know where to begin or how to begin talking to the teenager. I encouraged him to start where the patient is.
Through his lens, it would have been expected of the resident to look at the physical cuts to the wrists and begin treatment there. But I invited him to acknowledge that patient, that person's pain. Yes, physical pain is obvious, but clearly that person was in a kind of pain that modern medicine, no matter how advanced, could not directly touch.
That kind of pain can be more significant than any physical pain you or I can experience considering we can find refuge in knowing a blood test, IV infusion, or over the counter prescription can locate the root of the issue and give us relief.
Healing begins the moment we feel heard. So why are we not making greater efforts to listen?
Amy Pope-Latham, LCSW is a clinical psychotherapist in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL.