Meeting a client where they are at is a core principle in person-centred therapy and coaching, as developed by the renowned psychologist Carl Rogers. This principle emphasizes the importance of understanding and empathizing with the client's subjective experiences and worldview, without imposing the therapist or coach's own values or assumptions.
In essence, meeting a client where they are at means acknowledging and accepting the client's current emotional, mental, and behavioral state. This involves active listening followed by tapping on their concerns, fears, and hopes. First, however, it’s important to work with them to identify their own goals and priorities.
A person-centred approach also involves validating the client’s feelings and perspectives, and refraining from critiquing their choices. This is done by not simply by nodding in agreement but by tapping on what comes up. When done well, EFT is an exceptional person-centred technique.
One of the key benefits of a person-centred approach is that it creates a safe and supportive space where clients can explore their feelings.
Here are Carl Rogers’ principles of a person-centred approach:
- Unconditional Positive Regard
- Non-Directive Approach
- Focus on the Present Moment
- Client as Expert
To achieve this kind of connection with a client, an EFT practitioner needs to cultivate several core skills. First, we must practise active listening. This involves paying attention to the client's words, tone, and body language, and reflecting back what we hear to confirm our understanding. The way this happens in a skilful EFT session is that the practitioner refrains from changing or altering the client’s words when crafting a setup statement or reminder phrase. The act of summarizing or even paraphrasing can break rapport or even cause the client to feel judged.
Second, as practitioners, we must cultivate empathy. Empathy does not mean just putting oneself in the client's shoes and imagining what it might feel like to be in their situation. Cultivating empathy can involve a balance of asking open-ended questions to actively seek to understand their unique perspective as well as asking more directive questions to identify specific events to tap on.
Third, an EFT practitioner must practise unconditional positive regard as well as congruence without attempting to push the client in a particular direction. This can involve the practitioner committing to practising the Personal Peace Procedure as well as knowing who they shouldn’t be working with.
An example of knowing who not to work with would be a practitioner who has a teenage child who is an addict who wisely decides that working with addicts might make them less likely to hold professional boundaries or to be as compassionate as they could be. Another example is a Christian practitioner who might not want to work with someone who identifies as a Satan worshipper.
I personally know several top-notch practitioners who choose not to work with certain types of clients. Even though they have done a lot of work on their own issues, they still feel that they may struggle to maintain certain boundaries when working with a particular type of client.
The Impact Of A Person-Centred Approach
One of the key benefits of a person-centred approach is that it creates a safe and supportive space where clients can explore their feelings and thoughts. When the practitioner exudes an open and non-judgmental attitude, the client is more likely to feel heard and understood by the very act of the practitioner repeating their words during the tapping sequence. This can help with strengthening trust and deepening rapport.
This sense of safety and acceptance can also help the client access their own inner resources and resilience. The practitioner, by refraining from imposing their own solutions or opinions on the client, allows the client to tap into their own wisdom and creativity, and to find solutions that are meaningful and authentic to them.
The biggest mistake I see practitioners make in this area is premature or inappropriate reframing and positive tapping.
The other Rogers’ principle we always work with in EFT sessions is being in the present moment. When asking a client what they feel right now in the moment about a past or future event we can change their feelings and gain a better understanding of what happened naturally. When we regulate a client through Orienting Tapping or tapping without words during an abreaction or flooding part of a session, we bring the client back into the present moment where there is no real danger.
Overall, meeting a client where they are at is a foundational principle in person-centred therapy and coaching, and an essential component of building a strong healing relationship. By cultivating deep listening, empathy, and unconditional positive regard, EFT practitioners encourage a space for clients to explore their feelings and thoughts, tap into their own inner resources, and find solutions that are authentic and meaningful to them through their own cognitive shifts.
Alina Frank is an Accredited Certified EFT Master Trainer of Trainers.