As I look back over my first year in practice, I notice how my on-boarding process has morphed and changed as I have changed and grown as a practitioner. At times it became more structured as I sought to define my work with ever greater clarity and to attract those clients who I felt were truly aligned with what I was offering.
It has been suggested to me at times that I should just go with the flow, as that is more tantric. But for me, tantra is about creating a safe space, and for this there needs to be communication, clarity and trust.
The ‘on-boarding process’ is a rather corporate but nonetheless convenient term to describe the first stage of our connection. It begins the moment you first make contact with me. It covers the time we spend agreeing boundaries, navigating arrangements and everything that happens up to the moment you step into my therapy room.
You might think of it as liminal space.
The time and space between us being strangers, and being intimately connected.
Why is it important?
The reason why I insist on a formal intake process is to establish a mutual sense of safety. You need to know that I am honest and genuine, that I am someone you feel comfortable to open up to.
You need to feel a connection. You need to be able to trust me.
I need to know you are clear about what is on offer and that you are not seeking, consciously or unconsciously to get other needs met.
I need to sense that you are looking for what I am offering.
Often I hear this clarity during our initial conversation. Sometimes it is apparent in a heart-felt email outlining your experiences, your intentions and your desires.
For others I feel it in your response to my intake questionnaire.
I also need to feel your commitment to the process and your respect for me as a professional therapist. Your willingness to pre-book a discovery call, schedule an appointment and pay a deposit are all essential steps in establishing trust and building our connection.
I need to feel your respect for me and my process. I need to trust you.
If there is mutual trust, we can relax and the tantric energy can flow freely.
If some part of the process has been skipped, or I feel a lack of respect, it will have an impact on my ability to give of myself fully. The process I insist upon and the rules in my Terms of Business are there to support you to get the best version of me in our session.
Everything has a beginning, a middle and an end. As much as endings can be triggering, so too can beginnings. There is often an anticipation to get started and to be further forward. Many times in your past there may have been high hopes and false starts.
I invite you to engage with this stage of our connection consciously, noticing what it is bringing up for you and what it might remind you of.
My on-boarding process has also become more structured as I have established a clear process that I like to follow. I have my own preferences, I know my areas of weakness and I have learned from my mistakes. This process gives me the best possible chance of giving you a streamlined experience.
I can be forgetful, I sometimes forget to ask important questions. This has gotten worse in recent times which I suspect may be related to my hormones and increased stress levels. This is why I like calls to be pre-arranged, as it allows me to be fully present and fully prepared with a notepad and pen and my crib sheet to help me remember everything that I need to ask you.
I can find it hard to assert my boundaries clearly in discovery calls, especially if I am put on the spot, so I like our agreements to be made via email. My mobile phone is a very outdated model and so texting is not easy for me. I prefer to reserve it for quick confirmations not whole conversations.
I try not to push myself beyond my limits. Tantra, my autism diagnosis and hormonal challenges has taught me a valuable lesson, that I need to pace myself. For that reason, you may experience a delay in me getting back to you. I am also a recovering perfectionist so this is a hard balance to strike and sometimes I do push myself and this can result in you experiencing a version of me that is not my best self.
I am an over-sharer, I expect others to be as comfortable sharing as me, and it never fails to amaze me when people say – wow I’ve never told anyone this stuff before. I enjoy writing about my deep inner world and my intake questionnaire is an opportunity for you to do this, to get it all out.
I like to get the ground work done as quickly and efficiently as possible and then move onto ‘the good stuff’ and give you an experience. For this reason, I liked it when a client completed my full intake form before our first session. This tells me that you are committed and have thought deeply about our sessions.
As much as it pleases my neurodiverse brain to stick to a structure and have a one size fits all approach to this stage of our connection… no matter how hard I try…it just doesn’t work.
So I have started to let go…a little….and breathe.
(although I am not immune to my own projections)
As I have relaxed a little, I have noticed how different clients can have a very different experience of this early stage of our connection. Each person’s experience is as unique as they are.
This got my cogs whirring.
How is it that some clients can find it really challenging to navigate my procedures and way of working, some can wait weeks for a discovery call or initial appointment, and yet others can navigate my process with relative speed and ease.
I suspect that some clients perceive that I am unavailable or see my boundaries or procedures at best, as obstacles to overcome or at worst, a personal rejection. Whereas others find me delightfully straight forward and accommodating.
How can that be?
I am just me.
I do not consciously think to myself – today I’m going to be really awkward.
And I don’t think it comes down to having good and bad days, as I try very hard to be consistent.
What I think it comes down to is that, as a sensitive energy worker my energy shifts to meet yours and so
I become a mirror, reflecting back to you the experience you are expecting to have.
Perhaps your past experience with women has been straightforward, you have managed to get the girl pretty easily, perhaps you are well endowed physically or financially which has given you confidence and your interactions with women have flowed with relative ease. (In this line of work these types of clients are in the minority.)
On the other hand, maybe your past interactions with women have been mired in struggle, rejection, scarcity and lack of availability. Perhaps you have felt frustrated by obstacles in your path, unfathomable or seemingly irrational behaviour.
If my onboarding process brings up emotions, this is an opportunity for self enquiry. The first of many during our connection.
I invite you to feel into this, notice what the emotion is, and notice what has triggered it.
I invite you to consider whether this is a pattern for you.
And if so, whether it one you that you would like to shift.
I invite you notice where you are acting according to a habitual pattern, and see if you can make a different choice. Can you lean in where you usually hold back or vice versa, and see how that changes your experience.
The first stage of our connection is where the journey begins.
It is fertile terrain, there could be some golden nuggets waiting to be found just under the surface if you are willing to start digging.
Given the extraordinary potential for mirrors and projections on both sides of our interaction, you’d be forgiven for wondering how on earth we can navigate this liminal space.
But I have found a way, many ways.
I ask for your patience and understanding.
And I offer you the same in return.
In my client practice:
The onboarding process is liminal space, a dance, between two beings seeking to connect.
We both have our own distinct needs born from our characters and experiences. The dance is how we explore how both our needs can be met.
I recognise that to you, I may embody all the women you have met before. I accept the projections, and I offer you patience and understanding and I ask for the same in return.
I intend to create a safe space for you to explore as much or as deeply as you wish to go.
I will do whatever I can within my boundaries to accommodate your needs.
I have come to realise that for some clients talking through their experiences and their feelings may be challenging, and writing about them even more so.
It is ok to explore at your own pace, as trust develops between us.
Some clients want to test the water with a sensual massage first, others want to talk first.
I have now separated my intake form into a Personal Details form, that is important for me to have in advance of all massage sessions, and ‘Supplementary Questions’. These questions are optional and can be used as a tool for reflection. You are invited to share whatever material comes to the surface at a time that feels right for you.
I recognise that some clients wish to remain anonymous and make payments, including deposit payments in cash. I understand and can accommodate this. I will request your express permission to contact you via various methods and I keep a note of your preferences.
I respect your needs, just as I ask you to respect mine, though they may be different and may be difficult for you to understand.
I have a need for freedom and flow in my work life, I will not be tied to office hours. I put the best time to reach me on my email footer, but this can change week to week and during these times I may be with clients or engaging in self-care.
Rest assured that I want to connect with you and I strive to make myself and my movements as clear as possible, but I am an ethereal feminine being.
And if despite our best efforts, you are struggling to connect with me, let me know.
I am open to suggestions for how we can establish an initial sense of safety.
I will not relax my requirements to the extent that my boundaries are compromised, but there is always a different way to achieve the same end, we may just need to be creative 😊