You could have scrolled past this article on your feed, but you clicked to open it because something in you was curious about what it might say. How great is it that you honored that inkling within yourself, and you’re still here reading what I’ve written?! You are the greatness of discovering new things!
My name is Jennifer Dierenfeld, and I’m a speech-language pathologist at Evergreen Speech and Hearing Clinic. At home, I am a mother to two delightful children of my own, now aged 8 and 6 years old. I’m also an Advanced Trainer in the Nurtured Heart Approach (NHA)®. NHA was created by Howard Glasser, a licensed professional counselor. He found that the conventional methods to deal with challenging behaviors inadvertently backfired when put into practice with the children and families on his caseload. Howard developed this approach over time as he found that the energetic level of interactions below the obvious level really controls the situation. While this program was developed for parents, teachers, and practitioners to use with challenging children, it truly is applicable to any and all relationships.
When I originally learned about the approach, I planned to apply it to my own parenting of my children. However, I quickly realized that this approach had the potential to be hugely impactful in my work as a speech-language pathologist. What I love about this approach is the clarity it gives me in seeing the heart of the person I’m working with to connect with them and develop a relationship that allows us to meet our communication objectives.
Maybe it’s a kid who just rolled out of bed and was dragged into their speech therapy session and simply doesn’t want to work on their goals. Using conventional methods, I could dig in my heels and demand that we just get down to work on our goals, or I could take a moment to apply NHA and recognize their heart. What kind of greatness did it take that kid to show up when they could have stayed in bed or refused to come to therapy at all? What kind of greatness did it take them to tell me they didn’t feel like doing speech today? Wow, look at their greatness of self-advocacy and being an effective communicator by telling me their needs. Look at their greatness of respecting their parents by getting out of bed and coming to therapy. With that shift in my perspective, I can then meet this child in the truth of the moment and the great things they brought into our session to help us move forward on a different trajectory.
Or maybe it’s a parent who has different ideas about their child’s communicative strengths and needs in intervention than I do, and maybe they’re coming in to communicate in a manner that feels like an attack to the work I’m doing and my professional assessment. I could choose to lock horns with the parent and push my own agenda, or I could take a moment to step back and see their heart through the lens of NHA. What kind of greatness did it take for that parent to advocate for their needs? What kind of greatness did it take to speak up and say their ideas are different than my own as a communication expert? Wow! That shows such strength of character. That shows how they are motivated by their love for their kid in their interactions with me! That shows how passionate they are about being a true partner in therapy. With that shift in perspective, then I can connect with this parent and meet them as a true partner in therapy and work together while honoring the great things they bring to our interaction.
The NHA doesn’t fix my problem situations or mean I don’t ever find myself in challenging situations. NHA doesn’t mean I don’t ever get overwhelmed or frustrated and never lose my cool with my kids, because I do. I still make mistakes as a professional, as a parent, and as a person in my relationships, and NHA has taught me that each next moment is a new opportunity to reset and be a better version of myself. NHA truly works for me because it changes MY heart, it gives me clarity to honor the relationship of the person with whom I’m interacting and that in turn changes my behavior in the next moment which opens the window to build meaningful relationships and support transformation. If this sounds like something you would like to experience in your own life, I would love to invite you to come and learn more with me in our future NHA trainings, open to our patients and the public.
You can learn more about the Nurtured Heart approach here.