Written By Brittany P. Male LCSW, CADC
1. Acknowledge the struggle.
I often have conversations with clients regarding the difference being being hopeful and being dismissive of “struggle”. Before I can help a client move forward, I help them acknowledge where they are. As a therapist, I have a hopeful nature. I have hope that people can change. I have hope that people are good. I have hope that good things will happen. I have hope that we can overcome the obstacles we face. With all this hopefulness, though, I make it a point to also acknowledge the struggle others are experiencing and encourage them to acknowledge it themselves.
To acknowledge this may mean to simply say to yourself, “I am struggling right now and that is all right.” Life can be difficult and messy and while we can practice gratitude, we can also take time to provide compassion to ourselves through the “struggle” by simply acknowledging it. It is okay to not be okay.
2. Give yourself permission to struggle.
I give you permission to acknowledge your struggle. I give you permission to allow yourself to be both resilient and vulnerable as a result of the difficulties you’re experiencing. You can know that it will get better or easier yet simultaneously be overwhelmed. You can be grateful yet long for resolution of the challenges you’re facing.
3. Accept that the glass is both half full and half empty.
The truth is that the glass can be a little empty and also a little full. Read that again. Instead of trying to see things from only two positions as is our nature to do, you can instead be both. The glass can be half empty and half full at the same time.
4. Provide yourself with validation.
Once you allow yourself to acknowledge the challenges you’re facing and provide yourself or receive validation, you can then begin to move forward. Every session I have with clients includes validating their thoughts and feelings. So many of us don’t experience the validation we should receive from family and friends. Over time, this has taught us to be dismissive of our thoughts and feelings. In therapy sessions, validating someone acts as a corrective emotional experience, allowing them to learn to validate themselves and healing the wound that was caused by being dismissive of their past struggles.
5. Use validating and encouraging language with yourself and others experiencing struggle.
When we share words of encouragement such as “It will get better”, we do a disservice to those struggling. While certain types of encouragement be helpful, instead we need to first remember that encouraging them to acknowledge or validate where they are is necessary. Instead of saying to a friend, “iIt’ll get better'', say, “I see how hard it is for you right now. Please know that it does get better, and I can help you get there if you need.” I am not going to apologize to my clients for being hopeful in session, but I make certain that first and foremost, they feel heard and validated wherever they are presently.