Our clients often have a hard time appreciating themselves, so it is very important that they hear your appreciation of them exactly as they are in the present moment, without need for them to be different. It is important to acknowledge their good qualities and to greet their accomplishments with enthusiasm. This engenders more respect on our part and is empowering. In addition, it is an excellent way to express love. Appreciation and love, warmly expressed by significant others, is the most potent of healing forces.
On the other hand, it is extremely important not to treat the family member with “kid gloves”, or to become falsely cheerful, or to attempt to protect the person from everyday frustrations and challenges. To make the mistake of “coddling” the person or to give dishonest praise will only backfire and make the person feel “different” and like a stranger in his or her own home.
The Windhorse approach places great emphasis on honesty in all communication. People who suffer from serious mental disturbance are most acutely sensitive to the emotional overtones of whatever is being communicated. It is often hard for them to distinguish the line between reality and delusion, so consequently they rely on their antennae to pick up the underlying emotional tone of a message. It is the emotional tone which, after all, is the true message being communicated. Thus it is crucial that we are mindful of the emotional message we are giving, and that we are sure that the words and their emotional context are congruent.
Both positive and negative honest feedbacks are important in establishing a trustworthy environment. Appreciation is one aspect of honest feedback. Another aspect is the ability to be honest about one’s negative feelings in a non-blaming, non-judgmental constructive manner. The key, again, is mutual respect, for even the bitterest truth is palatable when expressed with graciousness and dignity.