A video on YouTube, posted by a trainer in emotional intelligence, had this quote: “Empathy is necessary for healing; Honesty is necessary for growth.”
In treatment, having empathy for the client is a key to gaining trust. Obviously, without trust, treatment won’t get very far. Empathy allows the client to understand, to tangibly FEEL, that the counselor is in their corner, the provider believes in them and is in total support of their recovery or growth.
Honesty is needed in like measure. Without honesty, there will be no “aha” moments, no discovery. Empathy without honesty can allow the client to stay stuck in their victim story (“it’s somebody else’s fault that I’m here.”)
Honesty also means we allow the client to see our cards as treatment providers, that our support for their growth and health includes our holding them accountable.
The following is an exercise that can be done to elicit both empathy and honesty:
think of a personal trait, or habit, that you are queasy about
what feelings arise when you think of hanging on to that habit, and what need is met by our not changing?
what need is not being met, when I continue to allow the unwanted habit to continue?
In the context of a long work session, the client can see the dual values - one for hanging onto old habits (because of fear, perhaps, from wanting ease), and the other a longing for a need, perhaps of freedom from habit and being healthy again)
Seeing the competing needs side by side can be a catalyst for change, especially if the provider/counselor supports the growth through the use of empathy and encouragement.