Expectations for ourselves and our clients

As a new counselor we have all sorts of expectations. We have expectations for ourselves, how we “should” respond, what techniques and theories we “should” use, how quickly we “should get it” or conceptualize the problem, that we “should” be able to fix it, or help. We also get caught up in the expectations we have for our clients, how they “should” behave and what they “should” get out of each counseling session. I end up making quite a mess of things when I “should” all over the place. This was an ongoing battle for me and every other student in my Internship class.  It was my last semester, the one that brings everything you have learned about counseling into consolidation. The class was much different than I thought it was going to be. I was convinced I would get all kinds of useful information and techniques about how to do counseling right, but the lessons I learned in my final class were less about techniques and more about bringing an awareness to myself.  Sure we talked about ethics, termination, safety, but instead of focusing on figuring out the client, we were instructed to pay attention to what was going on within us. How were we feeling during a session? How were we sitting and breathing, and how did that affect our work with the client? How was our perception of expectations and attachment to our expectations for our clients and ourselves getting in the way of being in the present? Continue reading

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Letters to a Young Therapist

Letters to a Young Therapist, by Mary Pipher, is a novel that feels like a conversation with a supervisor who cares deeply for the work of helping people and is committed to guiding a novice through the tricky parts of counseling.  I like the style of letters through each chapter.  The overall themes categorized by each letter resonate with some of the work I have already done and gives me some tips and ideas for future work I may encounter.  Continue reading

On the road to life…

We experience ups and downs…good times and bad….blah, blah, blah!  On the road to life, you are responsible for your actions, for your decisions, for the people you choose to surround yourself with.  I believe there are many choices we make each day, and the more present we are in each moment, the easier it will be to make the best choices that match up with who we are.  Rogers believed that people have everything within themselves to become happy and move towards a better life.  He thought that the farther a person goes  away from being their true selves, the less happy they are and the more discomfort that is created in their lives. Continue reading

How to establish goals with a vague client in a collaborative manner.

Establishing goals with a client can sometimes be one of the most difficult parts of the relationship.  When working at my internship site last year, I worked with folks who were working towards self-sufficiency.  Even if we explained to them that counseling is part of the program during their intake process, they quickly forgot that they “signed up” for it.  When we meet an individual for the first time, they may not understand the purpose of counseling, they may think we are doing something to them.  We would hear statements such as:  “I just need a job” or “I just need a little support until I can get back on my feet.”  The troubling fact is that a large percentage of the individuals we served had been chronically homeless or close to homelessness for a significant portion of their lives.  So, the purpose of counseling for that population is to help them create healthier patterns in many aspects of their lives so they can live in a new and better way. They don’t normally come to see us with open arms, so identifying goals in a collaborative fashion could, at times, be difficult.  Continue reading