4 Areas to “Know Thyself” Using the Johari Window
When I see clients I view them, in part, through the lens of the Johari window. It’s a helpful too for seeing how they may see me. Moreover, it reminds me to look out for what is not yet visible to either of us.
Have you ever heard of the Johari window? Named for the two psychologists who developed it in the mid-20th Century, Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham, it’s a useful tool for understanding our relationships. And could be a helpful tool for the counselor’s kit.
The window provides two intersecting vistas. One side expresses your view of yourself. The other expresses their view of you. Together these form four distinct “windows” into our relational world—relating to ourselves and to others.
If you do a Google image search of Johari window you will see these cast in a grid, in a “window” with four different view. Instead of the typical grid, I offer an illustrated perspective. You see parts of me that I also see, but also parts I do not. And I see parts of me you see, but also other parts you do not. And there’s more to me than what both of us can readily see.
I also utilize slightly different labels for each quadrant. I’ve replaced the often used “façade” or “hidden” with concealment. Instead of “unknown” for the last quadrant, I use “dark area” since this is how I first learned it. And together these form an easily memorable A-B-C-D sequence.
Seeing You Seeing Me
What you know of me that I know of me. For example, we both know I’ve returned to smoking after losing my last job. (Not really, I’m fictionalizing for visualization.)
What you know of me that I do not realize about me. For example, you know my clothes now smell like cigarette smoke every day.
What I know of me that you do not know of me. For example, only I know how disappointed I feel for smoking cigarettes again.
What you do not know of me that I do not know either. For example, neither of us know that the cells is my lungs are starting to become cancerous. (Fortunately for me, I actually do not smoke.)
Seeing a Client Seeing a Counselor
Let’s apply this to the counselor and client situation. A new client takes a seat across from me, a counseling intern still in training.
Both the client and I as her new counselor recognize my general inexperience. We both recognize I am not yet a limited licensed practicing counselor. But then we both recognize I am not in a position to diagnose her for any mental illness, but merely to provide guidance for a problem in her life that has apparently spun out of control. We also share a sense of reduced expectations, including the affordable cost for sessions.
My client notices more than me how I frequently lose track of what she is describing to me during this intake assessment process. In my anxiety to remember all that I was taught, I don’t realize how often I lose presence. In my mind, I’ve only asked her to repeat herself a couple times, but she recognizes it’s been closer to a half dozen times throughout this initial session. And I don’t see her doubts about whether it is worth her while to return for another session if I can’t seem to stay tuned in.
The client doesn’t see my self-doubt about how well I am utilizing techniques I’ve learned, such as reflection of feelings and paraphrasing for transitions. Nor does the client recognize how I struggle to remember which name she gives for which person she is describing to me in her life, or how I’m visualizing a genogram to try to keep track of it all. Nor does the client see me struggle whether she is resisting therapeutic change when questioning my recommended therapeutic goal or it’s just a sign of my inexperience. Of course, there’s plenty the client doesn’t see that is both unnecessary for her to see and is benign to the process.
Neither of us recognize my misjudgment in setting the therapeutic goal, which we only learn later is not only unrealistic but not well suited for her reporting problem. Both of us do not realize some of my poorly timed transitions are potentially undermining the therapeutic alliance, as my client’s level of trust in me stagnates for no fault of her own. We both don’t realize how my empathy for her struggle is currently the strongest point upon which we will move forward when scheduling a second appointment.
Knowing You Knowing Me
Sounds like a good reason for supervision, doesn’t it? My psychosocial development yearns for at least one person with whom I can share my secrets. Who will listen and give me honest feedback, to bring to light what I cannot readily admit about myself. Someone with whom I can drop my guard to draw out more of my truth, and who can feel they can safely drop their guard with me.
Clients need no less. By listening intently to my clients as they drop their guard and exposure their vulnerabilities, I aim to safely move their hidden truths into the light of self-awareness. And humbly accept the same. Which I appreciate as modeling what is often lacking in our lives of privileged individuation, guarded privacy and busy schedules.
We each need that sacred space to know and be known, to hear and be heard, to affirm and be affirmed, to love and be loved. Then to look at our Johari windows and see our arenas grow larger and our hidden areas steadily shrink. Finding ways to extend our ultimate value to one another, such as this useful tool, is among the secrets I don’t want to keep.