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Client Case: Finding the Key to An Open Heart



In this poignant client case, we witness a breakthrough moment where a simple metaphor opens the door to profound self-discovery and transformation. By embracing the vivid imagery of "twenty padlocks on the heart," the therapist abandons the traditional role of distant expert and instead joins the client on a creative, collaborative journey.


What unfolds is a session filled with unexpected humor, empathy, and a willingness to step into the unknown. Rather than rushing to fix or solve the client's dilemma, the therapist invites him to explore the metaphor, leading to a radical realization - that he holds the power to dissolve the barriers he's constructed around his own heart.


This case study offers a powerful example of the transformative potential that emerges when we approach therapy not as an imbalanced power dynamic, but as a co-exploration of the human experience. By embracing the chaos and discomfort alongside our clients, we create space for deep insight, healing, and the rediscovery of our most essential selves.


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"Looks like we need a trip to Homebase to get these padlocks off your heart," I said, my words hanging in the air between us.

The client's eyes widened as he described what he was seeing - twenty large padlocks, bolted onto his heart. It was a vivid, visceral image, and I felt a pang of empathy. This was clearly something deeply painful for him.

In that moment, I had a choice to make. I could have responded with the "right" thing to say, offering reassurance and validation: "I can feel how difficult this is for you right now, and how much you've needed to do to keep your heart safe."

But something told me to lean into the metaphor, to engage with it directly. "What's happening with your heart right now?" I asked.

"It's got padlocks on it," he said, his voice tinged with a mixture of resignation and curiosity.

"How many?" "About twenty." "What does your heart look like with twenty padlocks on it?" "They're big padlocks too."

I felt a wave of empathy, but also an undercurrent of something else - a spark of playfulness, even humor, in the face of this visceral image. "What do you want to do?" I asked.

"Take them off?" he replied, uncertainty lacing his words. "How do you want to do that?" "I'll need power tools."

And that's when I made the suggestion that would change the course of our session: "Looks like we're going to need a trip to Homebase then. Or B&Q. Either or, let's get the tools in."

What followed was an unexpected and profound journey. The client began using various power tools, methodically sawing through or picking the locks, one by one. At first, it was slow, arduous work. But then he started to find the process easier, realizing he didn't actually need the tools at all.

"I can dissolve the padlocks myself," he said, his voice tinged with wonder. "Through my own awareness and intention. The power is in my heart."

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The humor we had woven into the process seemed to create a space for this deep realization to emerge without overwhelming him. There was an element of playful involvement, but also a sense of holding - a recognition that this was serious, important work.

Over the following sessions, the client began to understand that he had locked up his own heart, out of a fear of rejection and hurt. This insight helped him see why he'd struggled to find the meaningful connections he craved. Slowly, the padlocks started to disappear, and he became more willing to open his heart to explore his passions and take brave steps forward.

In the end, it was the willingness to join the client in the metaphorical "shit storm" of his experience, rather than trying to quickly fix or solve it, that allowed this profound shift to occur. By meeting him where he was, with empathy and a touch of creative engagement, we were able to navigate the unknown territory together.



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