During the election season, there had been sporadic talk about the election, and many of my patients were fairly certain about the outcome. Some felt excited about the possibility of real change; others felt that the new president would continue to build on the accomplishments of the last several years. A few hoped that a new and different kind of leader would be elected and the country would take a long needed turn in the “right” direction.
Some clients expressed that the behavior of the candidates seemed to be reflected by conversations they were having with their family and friends. Many commented that these conversations turned so angry and hostile that they were shocked by the level of emotion and discord.
Some of my clients were wondering if they should halt all conversations about politics. “If I tell my friends or family how I really feel or how their point of view is painful for me, will they still want me to be part of their life?” Yet they expressed some internal conflict over the idea of stopping political conversations because they wanted to feel they could have an open dialogue with everyone in their life, no matter what their point of view.
A few people said they were relieved that they could discuss their fears and frustrations in counseling with a neutral party who would listen without judgement. Therapy remains a safe space for many people to discuss things that are going on in the world without concern about how their views will impact others.
What happens if a client expresses an opposing point of view? How do you hold space for them if you are having trouble keeping your own politics out of the session? If you agree with the client, how vocal should you be about that (if you reveal it at all)? If it feels helpful to the client to express support for their view, you could consider doing that in a case-by-case basis. And don’t forget to take care of yourself in these turbulent political times.