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By setting reasonable client expectations in advance, and getting agreement on how to deal with anything that arises, it helps the client feel confident and safe before you start.

I teach ‘setting up for success’ options to my Reiki and NLP students, and it’s a useful concept for the wider wellness community. If you’re already doing key elements of this naturally, bringing it to conscious awareness will give you the chance to tweak it for even better results! And if you’re the client, give these elements some thought before you have your first session with your therapist, coach, light-worker etc.

(This post is about the client’s expectations and experience. Managing the healer’s state is another post.)

My approach is to build in guidelines and boundaries in the conversation at the beginning of a session with a new client, or when using a new approach with an existing one.

Using Reiki as an example: What if your client has an injury or a painful area that means they can’t stay in one place for long, or don’t want to be touched but it doesn’t occur to them to tell the therapist? If they’ve seen Reiki done in the field, but not with contact, or vice versa, that could cause problems. What if the client experiences an unexpected emotional release, local temperature changes, breathing adjustments, or the classic tummy rumbles? They might feel panicky, or simply embarrassed, and all-round it might not be the pleasant, soothing experience they were looking for!

An empowering setup can make the whole process much smoother!
Most wellness professionals get best results when they involve some version of the following where it applies to their techniques. It can be quite simple and quickly done, built into what you already do.

  • creating a relevant questionnaire, current issues, past problems, what has or hasn’t worked for them in the past, their experience of any similar process previously, preferably completed before the first session
  • listening to them as they talk about why they’ve come, and notice any language patterns such as metaphors, visual/auditory/kinaesthetic etc which will help you phrase your setup and work with them during the session
  • ask them about what they consider important outcomes, fears or concerns about the process
  • talk about time scales, both for the overall treatment schedule and the individual session
  • be clear about what the difference between likely outcomes for the individual session and what they are hoping for (this may be more OR less!) and mention factors that may influence this.
  • hold a strong, clear intention for the outcome, while being flexible about the journey, and get your clients to join you in this.
  • explain and/or demonstrate the basic process you’re planning to use. For example, with a new Reiki client, I demonstrate where I will place my hands using myself as a model, and make it clear I avoid ‘the bikini areas’. I show the difference between hands off and on, and ask which they would prefer, then mention that I will probably spend different amounts of times on various areas etc.
  • ask about their comfort levels with different things (physical, emotional, situational) that might be relevant. Ideally before they arrive. Assure them that they have the right of veto if they’re not happy with anything and discuss alternatives. It’s too late to clear the smell of incense once someone has started to breathe it in!
  • speak about common experiences for clients with tact and gentleness eg: “you might feel xyz, or not, and that’s fine because it’s short term, or part of the process etc.” Make sure they are not frightened off with dramatic talk!
  • tell them what you will do if they feel uncomfortable, have an emotional response or whatever is relevant to your technique.
    Establish a protocol and get their agreement before you start. That way you have something to refer back to it. Eg: Something pops up and you can smoothly respond with ‘Now we’ll just do xyz as we discussed earlier’ which helps make them feel they are in safe hands and that they will be fine. This gives them the best chance of moving back into comfort/calm, even if they have to work through something on the way.

    And of course, at the end of the session check-in about how well the client’s needs were met, and if anything could be adjusted for next time.

    I hope that was useful.
    Love, light and laughter,

    Jen Tiller
    The Breathing Coach
    Founder of the Healerzone Academy

Setting up for success