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My experience has been to approach strengths with respect and care. Like some of the reading above suggests, focusing too much on strengths and dreams can cast a shadow on recovery work. I can easily rely on my upbringing as a solid foundation of respect and love (strength) and totally ignore my vulnerability and times when I really need to stop just “looking on the bright side”. Some people did not come into the world with that type of safety and support. It takes time to even help someone understand that what they have to say is real and real important.
As I think about it, strengths are useful as grist for the mill when I work on my own healing. I can have a whole bunch of YUCK in the mill and if I don’t mix it up with strengths, I’ll get stuck in the YUCK. If I apply this to work with clients, it is like inviting them to practice showing up for themselves using whatever strength they can identify. It might be a strength outside their ‘personality traits’ like a distracting activity. Not always going for the insight card has been a lesson I’ve learned through the years.
As an art therapist by training, I have used fine arts, music, poetry, movement as a tool to give voice or make something visual when it might be hard to describe in conversation. Realizing with art, for example, that the strength is NOT the finished product…but the courage to even put anything down on paper and tear it up if the moment calls. The whole phoenix rising is an analogy that I think about a lot. Even when someone is in the flames, we can work together for them to identify what strengths they have to put something around the fire to prevent it from spreading. Have you ever experienced a client’s “aha” moment when you’ve said something like “wait…did i just see you take a deep breath just now”? It is an honor to behold when holding up a mirror helps someone see strength in their own reflection.