"Is this the part where you ask 'how does that make me feel'" asked the 7 year old girl "drinking tea" across from me; wise beyond her years. She was in the middle of talking about her weekend when she suddenly paused and asked me this. "Am I going to ask you how you feel?" I replied. "Yea" she said, "like in the movies or on TV." She straightened up her posture, look down her nose and said in her best grown up voice ..."and how does that make you feeeeeel?" Drawing out the "feel" for as long as her breathe would take her. I couldn't help but smile and we both began to giggle. "how does that make you feeeeeeI?" I tried to mimic. "Yea, they always do that, and they wear glasses" "Uh-huh" I said, "just like you!" she said.
Uh-oh! I began to think is that really what people think of the therapeutic experience? More so, is this what children expect? Am I some how perpetrating this? And then finally an angry thought at the media, we aren't like that are we?
As we continued our session sprawled out on the rug over a lovely imaginary tea party she began to tell me about a situation that seemed particularly frustrating to her. Conscious not to use that infamous line she knew so well at 7. I asked "What colors are you seeing ?" "Red, lots of red and orange like fire" she said, clenching her fists as she discussed the details of the indent. "I notice your hands are in fists, And your seeing red and orange fire?" I paused for a minute "It looks like you were really really angry!" I observed. "No," she said defiantly. "Not really really angry." "REALLY, REALLY, REALLY ANGRY." "Woah," I said "its no wonder you were seeing red." Attaching colors and body cues to emotions are another way for one to elicit feelings without using the proverbial "...and how does that make you feel?" One can have the child come to that by asking, "what colors did you see?" and "what was your body telling you?"
Who knows maybe one day there will be an amazing show on Hulu about a therapist who uses outside of the box techniques and never utters a single "...so how does that make you feel." But until then it's up to us as therapists to cater the experience to our clients (of all ages) and use language they are more comfortable with. Of course there is a time and place for the proverbial statement, I've absolutely used it a time, or two, or 12 (let's be honest, I've lost count!) but let's not make it our tagline. Therapy is so much more than a look down our glasses and a well known line.