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.

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

Outcome accomplished, and a new journey begins!

Last week I wrote about finding that path to extraordinary and how my journey began when I decided to change my mind to become lighter and more agile.  The specific goal?  To run a  half-marathon!  On Sunday, I did it!  We fared the cold weather and the misty rain, the hills we had not trained for, and incredibly 3 hours later we were crossing the finish line.  My hubby was my wingman, and even though his pace is much faster than mine, he stayed with me till the finish line.  That support cannot be overlooked.  When we are doing something that requires a change of thinking, it is important to surround yourself with people who are on your side, supportive and believe in you!

During the process, I felt great, happy, and for a moment overwhelmingly proud of myself.  I reflected on who I used to be, and how great it feels to make positive changes for a healthy lifestyle.  Sure there were moments when I had pain in my body, or I was really cold from the weather change and rain, but not once did I ever consider giving up.  That was not an option.  We trained for the half, we put in the work, and we were ready.  Now I wasn’t sure if i would ever do another, but then when I finished and crossed that finish line, that all changed.  If I could do 13.1 in 3 hours with bad weather and hills I had not trained for, then I could blast that time under better conditions!  So, next half-marathon scheduled for March!  The things we can accomplish when we put away the thoughts that sabotage our excellence!

Clarity for extraordinary!

If you told me last year that I would be running a half marathon on October 7, 2012 in Washington DC, I would have told you that you were crazy! Words like “I can’t, I will never be, I am just not that person” were commonplace in my vocabulary. Pity, really, when I know from experience, when I really want something I can make it happen. The only thing that stops me 99% of the time is ME.

So, it all began when my old supervisor taught a lesson one night in group.

If you check out my blog from November 29, 2011, entitled “Change…clear, specific and appealing“, all this will make a bit more sense. I have, for as long as I remember had an unhealthy relationship with food, my weight and my body. I subscribed to the fact that I would “always” be overweight because I like to eat..as though change were impossible.

After my Supervisor’s lesson in group last year, probably around June, something looked different in that picture. He taught it another time a couple of months later and it really started making sense. So, I had to ask him to use my “problem” and guide me in the appropriate language to clear up the foggy messages I was sending to my brain.

See, I was saying I wanted to “lose weight” and “eat less”, but all my brain heard was weight and eat. The brain doesn’t understand negations, so you have to be very clear in what you want, whatever the goal, outcome, or result you are looking for.

So, instead he instructed me to be clear without negations. He asked what I wanted my outcome to be. I said, I would love to run a marathon. He said, “Okay, how about lighter and more agile?” It immediately fit. When I am lighter and more agile, it will be easier for me to run a long distance. Next, it is about being specific. So, we came up with “I run a marathon.” Finally, how did we make it appealing to my brain? I see myself at the finish line, I have completed the marathon, I have a huge smile, and I feel happy, excited and proud of my accomplishment. My body feels good. Strong. And more agile.

That is when the work started, in those conversations with him, almost a year ago. So, fast forward to today. My husband and I moved to DC in January where running is a popular activity. I met someone at work who is an avid marathoner. They gave me a training calendar, offered a few tips, and recommended a running store. I did a little research, found a half marathon (gotta crawl before you walk), and began little by little to run.

Now, please understand, never in a million years would I have chosen to start running. I was the girl who attempted running with her husband and acted more like a 2-year-old with a temper tantrum than an educated adult. I was all, “I can’t, it’s too hard, it hurts, blah, blah, blah.”

Looking back I can see why he was so annoyed with me. The only thing holding me back was me. I said, I can’t – so I couldn’t, it’s too hard – so it was, it hurts – so it did. I gave up before I even began! Yesterday, I ran 12 miles! 12.2 miles? Me? 12.2 miles! Yep! And this weekend 13.1 for my very first half-marathon! I cleared up the foggy messages in my brain, I set out to run a half-marathon, become lighter and more agile, stronger, proud of myself and my accomplishments, and what-do-you-know? I am doing it.

The lesson here about life is that large tasks work best when completed in small bites. If I had set out to begin running 13.1 miles that first week, it would have been impossible and I would have thrown in the towel. Instead, I did the research, came up with a plan, gathered the appropriate supplies (running shoes – super important!), and increased my miles each week. There were weeks when I got off track, but I still had my eye on the prize. My brain is on a mission, it has a destination. And this Sunday, those 13.1 miles are going down!

When working with clients, they may have tasks or situations that seem overwhelming. They may not be sure of where to even start. If we encourage them to start with the outcome, then work to the solution in small steps by using this strategy – clear, specific and appealing, big problems become manageable tasks.

For example, I had a client who had a sizeable debt to repay, working 2 jobs, having car problems and was saving money to move out of the shelter. We worked a budget. We looked at the small to the large. What is most important? Keeping the car, right? Keep the car – keep the job. So, we worked a way to repair the car, so her jobs would not be affected. Next she portioned a part of her check for student loans, for savings to move and allowed a small part for her to have fun. There has to be some reward in all that hard work. When she looked at the whole picture, she became overwhelmed, “how will I ever pay it all? I am going to be here forever!” After we were clear about her outcome – live independently. She could focus on small tasks to get closer to that goal. How was she specific? I will find one job that pays well enough to cover debt and expenses to live in my own place. How did she make it appealing? She envisioned herself at her home, inviting her mother for dinner, entertaining friends, feeling safe, secure and happy.

To think, what we could miss if we allow limits that only exist in our minds to hold us back from the sweetness of accomplishing the extraordinary! We all have something extraordinary brewing under the surface. Find clarity to bring your extraordinary!

Finding love that lasts

Love.  It is the one thing in life that we all need, search for, hope for, ache for, and even sometimes in our fear – run from.  John Lennon said it best, “All You Need Is Love.”  Martin Luther King said, “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.”  From a spiritual perspective, “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16 NIV).  The Dali Lama notes that, “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries.  Without them humanity cannot survive.”

If love is essential to all aspects of life, why is it so hard to see it when it arrives before you?  I recall a time when I thought all I wanted was a relationship with a man who truly loved me, yet I did many things to get in my own way, and prevent love from flourishing in my life.  Continue reading