Terminating the client-counselor relationship

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What is the best way to end the counseling relationship?  A counselor’s hope is with the client in a better place and with a higher level of awareness.  Of course we want to know that we made a difference, but that’s the tricky part of working with humans.  We are all unique and results are measured differently.  With one client a certain level of progress may not seem very significant, but with others that same type of progress may be just enough to leave a lasting effect.  No matter how significant the results, terminating the counseling relationship is just as important as beginning it.

When meeting with a client, I like to be as proactive as possible.  The more information my clients have the better, that way there are no surprises.  Counseling is a very intimate relationship.  People don’t generally put their whole selves along with their secrets on the table for all to see, so developing the counseling relationship is instrumental.  Part of gaining trust comes with informed consent, making sure they know what to expect from you, and ending treatment in a respectful way.  Carl Rogers theory, person-centered approach, is drilled into your counseling education for a reason.  The three aspects Rogers believed are critical to the counseling relationship are unconditional positive regard, empathy, and genuineness.  If your clients feel that you are present-engaged- participating- and you care, they are much more inclined to do the work.  Get them started with an understanding that there will be an end within a timeline. This gives them a metaphorical carrot to chase; an outcome to look forward to.  One caution – you can be a part of the journey without getting on the bus.  Meaning, maintain your differentiation to prevent transference and countertransference.  It takes practice, patience, and diligence to confront your own emotions after a difficult session.  Be sure to take the time to meet with a supervisor or peer to process the session, your feelings and move through it.  We must constantly take care of ourselves, spend too much time giving all you have to everyone else, and there is little left to work with.  This work helps you and ultimately makes you a better counselor.   

The interesting part of counseling is when your clients surprise you.  Sometimes we can make termination such a big deal in our heads, and admittedly feel a bit disappointed when they are not nearly as bummed as we are to end the counseling relationship.  Bottom line…Inform them, Rogers them, and give them a loose outline so they can take you on an incredible journey!

Transformation is an experience that few of us have a front row ticket to, get in that mosh pit, get engaged, and take it all in. It will change your life as well.

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Burnout

5amIt’s 5am, the alarm goes off and I realize another day awaits, but it’s hard to get out of bed. My body doesn’t feel rested, my eyes burn and my head aches. My jaw feels sore, probably from the clenching or grinding in my sleep. Coffee may not be enough to activate me this morning. When I get to work, Continue reading

Externalizing the Problem

This is a great activity I learned from one of my amazing professors at University of South Florida, Dr. Ryan Henry.  You can use it with a client or even with yourselves to better understand Continue reading

Aging Gracefully

No matter what we do, what we don’t do, what we see, hear, believe or want – one thing remains unchanged about life. Time passes and we get older. We can age gracefully or we can wither away. This year as I reflect on another 29th birthday — hey no judgement! 29 was a good year, so I plan to remain 29!  I think about what I have accomplished thus far and what my dreams are for the future. Taking some time each year to reflect on outcomes (goals), accomplishments, and new challenges to embark upon, offers an opportunity to evaluate the commitments you have made to yourself and others and evaluate the results. If the results are not what you had planned or hoped for, chart a new course and continue or develop a new outcome plan. Continue reading

Choosing a Career

One of the most important and most difficult decisions we face in life is determining the vocation best suited for us. Many factors come into play such as: what are my interests, abilities and aptitudes; what jobs are available in the current labor market; what type of training and education are needed for a specific position and how will I afford the necessary training for my field of interest? Continue reading

Creating a Vision for your Future

One of my favorite exercises in the substance abuse IOP group therapy sessions was Life Mapping. My supervisor used to remind our clients that the work we were doing was great work for all people, including folks with addictions. It was just plain old, good therapy! This exercise helps clients create a clear picture for what they want in their lives. It grew out of some work one of my previous supervisors had done with a Covey leadership development class.

So, how does it work? First, you identify your core values. Examples may include family, career, spirituality, integrity, health, education and sobriety. Then you identify how your current behaviors go against those values. How are the choices and decisions I make dishonoring my core values? For example, if family is your value, perhaps your current behavior is isolating you from your family or causing arguments. Or for career, perhaps your lack of follow through or completion of deadlines is inhibiting your career growth.  Here is a worksheet to get you started:  VALUES WORKSHEET

Next, you identify what outcomes you would like to see for each value. What do you want in your life? For family, perhaps it is a closer relationship with loved ones, for spirituality maybe it means a closer relationship with God, and for health perhaps your outcome would be feeling well, reducing risk factors or unhealthy behaviors.

Next, you identify the tasks associated with each outcome. These would be the specific behaviors or actions that are critical to accomplishing your outcomes and staying true to your core values. Examples of tasks for health may be: eat 5 small meals a day, count my calories, exercise 3 days per week for 30 minutes, practice meditation 5 minutes each day. For family, some examples might include: eat dinner together every night at 6pm, spend time as a family outside the home 2 times per month for at least 2 hours doing an activity in which we are engaged with each other (not going to a movie), implement a date night on Fridays with my spouse. For career, tasks may include: get to work 5 minutes early each day, ask for additional training, meet with my supervisor to develop a development plan.  I created this worksheet:  LIFE MAPPING WORKSHEET to assist you in Creating your Vision.

The next phase is consolidating your Life Map into a Vision Statement. This one can take some time, and I recommend doing a talk-through-walk-through first. Pretend I am an old friend and have not seen you for a year, and I see you at the supermarket and say, “Hey there! I haven’t seen you in such a long time. How are you? Tell me what’s new in your life?” Using the information you gathered about what outcomes you want for your life from your Life Map, speak as though you are currently living the life you have envisioned in your diagram. Use the tasks and outcomes to describe the changes that have occurred in your life. An example may be something like this:

Gosh, Missy, so much has happened! Life is great! I feel calm and peaceful, my family relationships are loving and connected and we spend time together having fun and learning. My body is strong and ready for each new day that comes. My career has moved to a new level where I feel proud and motivated each day. My relationship with God grows each day through prayer and meditation.

As I blogged about before, creating clarity is the beginning of the process of change. Iyanla Vanzant said in a speech she gave on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday, “Your eyes adjust to the amount of deficiency present.” Think about that.

Read it again….Your eyes….adjust….to the amount of deficiency present.

So you get used to deciphering life through fuzzy eyes, you adapt and compensate, and inevitably miss things. If our vision for our lives is unclear, or we cannot even see an outcome that we would like or need, than we begin to believe that the possibility of our hopes and dreams are unachievable. The deficiency may be the story we tell ourselves, the doubts we allow others to speak into us, or the insecurities that stifle us. Sometimes we let others talk us into or out of what we truly want and sometimes we do not need any help setting ourselves back. We may even begin to believe that the dreams we have are unrealistic. How will you nurture and foster your dreams to create a vision for your future?

“The man who thinks he can and the man who thinks he can’t are both right. Which one are you?” ~ Henry Ford

Counseling Theories

What did I learned in my last Counseling class before my field experience?  I thought I knew something about Counseling Theorists, but then Dr. D had this way of showing you the theories in such a way that they really stick.

The class structure was a great format to dissect and dig into theories.  The process of presentation followed by professor overview, then movement into a live role play, and finally into an activity created an environment of learning that leaves room for participation, learning and feedback.  I got the most from the role plays, as these helped me see how different theories can impact individuals and problems.  These experiences have helped me choose the theories that I believe in and trust will work for my style and my view of human nature and development.  I have learned that theory is the second most important part of working with clients. Continue reading