Part of a series on the GROUND of RSM – a foundational acronym introduced by Joe Weldon and Noël Wight at the 17th Rubenfeld Synergy Training.
The second piece of our GROUND, after Gentleness, is Respect, which probably sounds pretty basic. Again, though, these concepts are foundational: both literally and figuratively, they are the ground of our work.
Respect, in any kind of therapy or healing, should be obvious; the dignity and integrity of the patient or client must be upheld above all else. The tremendous trust that clients tend to put in therapists makes this doubly the case; people are coming to us and telling us their most personal stories, and counting on us to be confidantes, healers and even mentors. In Synergy, the trust is even more profound, as we also incorporate touch into our work. There are reasons why touch has been expunged from most practice involving mental health: in the early days of psychotherapy, abuse was rampant. Yet touch is one of the most profound pathways to healing, and lack of safe, boundaried, non-sexual touch is, I believe, one of our modern plagues. Incorporating touch into counseling, then, requires an extra layer of respect.
When approaching a client to initiate touch, Synergists are trained to obtain verbal consent, not just once, but often throughout the session. At times, especially as the Synergist and client get to know each other over several sessions, this constant checking in is no longer necessary, but for my own part, I still always ask consent for first contact at the beginning of a session. Often, clients have experienced trauma, perhaps had their boundaries violated, their integrity blown apart. One of the first steps to healing is according a client the respect that all human beings deserve. Again, as with practicing gentleness, this can help a client begin to feel what it’s like when they are respected – a feeling they may not have had in a long time.
One of our main goals as Synergists is to help a person reach a place of integrity: a congruence of body, mind, emotions and spirit. When a client who has been sexually abused, for example, feels that someone can both be totally respectful of his boundaries and offer loving, safe touch, he may begin to learn something new about how his body can receive touch without violation. When a client who feels uncomfortable asks the Synergist to move away and she does, immediately and without question, that client can begin to feel that she can indeed have her boundaries respected. Respect is perhaps the most important tool we can use to help restore integrity to our clients: to help them feel again that their bodies, minds, emotions and spirits belong to them.
Once it becomes clear that proper respect is present, the way opens for the next foundational concept: openness.