Monday, October 24, 2005

On being a Counsellor, part one

The role of a counsellor varies depending on the connection made between the two individuals. Many variables have to align before there is a flowing openness.......a movement in the conversation that evolves from polite safe topics to the client's story and eventually to the identified issue. The key to this happening always starts with a connection built on trust and respect. Often it doesn't happen if one of the two aren't alert to the process and have decided to remain asleep and fearfully unaware. If it does occur, the chemistry and the client's prospect of establishing a sense of self-recognition, altering of perceptions, and making decisions to forgive and move forward are limitless. On the other side, the counsellor leaves fulfilled knowing that they have witnessed growth by being a guiding agent of change. Never is there a time when this connection occurs that the counsellor and the client leave without a strong bond and new learning. When it happens, it is very fulfilling. It is what motivates my desire to continue in this career.

The roots for all effective counsellors must be embedded in a genuine desire to help and an interest in communicating at a deeper level with others. Often taking on the role of "private eye", they must also have a strong foundation in critical analysis, puzzle solving, quick intuitiveness and of course curiosity. Counsellors are inherently nosey. The fertilizer around the roots is enriched with empathy, authenticity, thoughtfulness, and respect. Using attentiveness and light, the client has the potential to stretch,and develop in strength and personal veracity.

The counsellor is a leader, confident in providing the light and the path for a lost individual. Sometimes, the path is a dark unknown to both parties. Still, the counsellor must be able to project a sense of safety and trust to maintain a conviction that will allow the process to be fruitful and to judge the timeliness of the "aha" moments for the client.

Paradoxes need to be confronted daily in the life of a counsellor, and these stem from the very reason he/she has chosen this field in the first place. One has to have the ability to care and to show concern, to be receptive to whatever issue has been thrown out for resolution, and the ability to accept deeply felt and expressed feelings from others. These qualities can ultimately leave a person open for taking on another's problems and trying to solve them. Balance is key. On one hand, the counsellor must continue to be receptive. On the other hand, he/she must take all precautions to protect themselves from becoming a "saturated sponge" full of other's issues. The counsellor must keep a distance, maintain objectivity while also feeling for the person in conflict.
  • It's easier to make the bed than teach your child to make their own bed. Take the time to teach the skill.........
  • It's easier to make the dinner and feed your family than to teach them how to become more self-sufficient. Take the time to teach the skill............
  • It's easier to jump in and "parent" the client by taking control of the problems, finding solutions and moving on, than to patiently wade through it as a guide and allow the client to retain ownership and consequently regain their confidence and self-esteem. Take the time to develop equality and balance.

Sometimes, it isn't possible..........the story is too piercing. The counsellor finds his/herself in a quandry, wrestling with issues that he/she don't logically own, but have somehow managed to get under their skin. It's important to be able to recognize when this occurs and learn ways to let go of it or it will ultimately affect their life outside of the counselling environment and eventually cause burn out. This takes experience and an understanding that selfishness is a necessity in this field.
It also means that a counsellor needs to take time to go back to their own roots and re-evaluate just why they chose this career path in the first place. The answers all lie within their own cultivated and ever changing garden, full of light and shadows.

There is no greater joy, nor greater reward than to make a fundamental difference in someone's life.
Sister Mary Rose McGready.


Martin said...

Fantastic post - A great overview and insight into a career change I am contemplating. I would love to chat about the subject if possible!


Shucolat said...
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