Without a doubt, the compassion we offer our clients is often a key part of their healing.
But how do we help our clients build compassion toward themselves . .
. . . especially when they feel frozen and unable to act, cut off from themselves and those they care about? When their ability to be kind to themselves is blocked by a punishing inner critic?
Well, Laura Silberstein-Tirch, PsyD uses two powerful interventions from compassion-focused therapy to help her clients heal shame.
In the video below, you’ll hear the compelling case of Seth. Laura shares exactly what she did to help him end the cycle of shame-based paralysis and isolation.
Check it out – it’s about 4 minutes.
Dr. Silberstein-Tirch: We looked at how his criticism left him feeling and thinking about himself, and often he found himself plunged into experiences of depression, sadness, and anxiety leading him to often avoiding activities of his daily life, staying home for days on end, not going out or interacting with other people. I asked the question that we ask many of our clients in compassion focused therapy, I asked him if I were to take away his inner critic, if I somehow had the magical power that could remove his ability to criticize himself, that when he left my office he would never criticize himself again, what would be his greatest fear? Seth said to me that he would be afraid that he would be not good enough, that he would constantly be making mistakes, that he would go off the rails with his behavior, that he would do things that weren’t in line with his values, and that he certainly would never improve or become a better actor or a better dancer.
Dr. Buczynski: So the first thing Laura did was to use functional analysis to help Seth get in touch with what his inner critic was trying to do for him. She followed that by helping him cultivate a compassionate other.
Dr. Silberstein-Tirch: We started to do some of our compassion focused imagery, he started to cultivate his ideal compassion itself, but what was really helpful for Seth was cultivating his ideal compassionate other, a coach, a mentor that was there to root him on, someone that took joy in his successes, but also noticed when he was failing, notice when he was having difficulty, or noticed when he was struggling. I was able to provide correction to help return to his attention and do things a little bit different. It was about allowing himself to respond more effectively. We started looking at examples of those teachers or coaches that got the best performance out of their students or players. Those individuals perhaps over the course of Seth’s life that he felt inspired him, that motivated him to do more but didn’t paralyze him with fear and anxiety, like his critic had been doing. We began cultivating these examples, he read some biographies on different coaches, watched a bunch of teaching movies, and together we worked so he could construct his ideal compassionate other, his compassionate coach that could come with him on his auditions when he was trying out for shows, or for gigs. He could have this compassion another with him as he engaged in the different areas of his life that were meaningful to him. It allowed him to live a bigger, fuller, more vital life and didn’t leave him home alone isolated. Compassion focused therapy teaches clients to use compassionate self correction, rather than shame based self attack.
Laura’s approach can be powerful – especially for clients who might be equating compassion with “letting themselves off the hook.”
We get into several other strategies for helping clients transform shame with self-compassion in The Clinical Application of Compassion program.
But for now, I’d like to hear from you. How have you helped a client heal from shame? Please share your experience in the comment section below.