Being aware of your needs and educating those around you what they are is not easy. Many have learned growing up that their feelings and needs are not important. When ignored for too long, feelings and needs become difficult to recognize and negative emotions and acting out behavior eventually develop.
Use Your Words
Self awareness of one’s own feelings and needs are critical for problem solving, communication, and healing. For example, when one is mindful they are feeling scared and their need is to be reassured, the person will be more effective in letting others know how to help them feel better. Having the language to say, “I am scared, I need your reassurance” also guarantees a higher likelihood of having one’s needs met by a trusted support than being silent and withdrawing.
In an effort to ensure my client’s needs are being met in therapy, and to keep the therapeutic session in a purposeful direction, I follow my initial question of how they have been feeling with the inquiry of what their needs are for the day’s session. I selfishly use the therapy needs menu as a guide for my interventions and will reference their need throughout the discussion ensuring we are both on track to addressing their need.
Group Therapy Needs
My favorite use of the therapy needs menu is in group therapy. At the beginning of every group, I check in with each client and ask them to briefly share what they are thinking, feeling, and what their group needs are.
Many will share one need and some share all the needs on the page. Their announcement provides the opportunity for the client to identify and educate everyone what their need is this day. It also facilitates perspective taking and group problem solving, as group members tend to work together prioritizing the subsequent discussions.
Posting the menu of individual and group therapy needs in my office space provides a helpful visual prompt for both of us. Overall, my goals are to have my clients disclose their feelings and their needs to address and to eventually generalize this practice with their trusted supports.
As in life, not all sessions end with one’s needs being met. It will be helpful to end each conversation with the inquiry if they had been met. Should my clients remain to have an unmet need, I encourage ongoing self-care to address their need throughout the week, as well as the plan to revisit their need at the next session.