I have only been counseling professionally for four years.
I have been counseling professionally for four years.
My point is this: I by no means believe that I’m ready to hang up my hat and stop learning, but at the same time, I feel rooted in my calling and in my ability to counsel.
Ok, that was the disclaimer, some of you are not going to like the content. But that’s ok, we can still be friends.
I have come to believe that there are two different kinds of counseling clients (and dare I say, two different kinds of people):
(1) Individuals who are able to humbly and objectively look at their life, and see both how they’ve been hurt, and also their role in the hurting.
(2) Individuals who are blind to, or outright refuse to accept responsibility for the mess they’re in, and instead spend countless hours placing blame, making excuses and burying themselves further and further into hopelessness.
Here’s an illustration of the two types:
I had a woman in my office recently, let’s call her Mary. Mary and I spend a total of two hours together, that’s just two sessions. Session one was used in the typical “dumping ground” fashion. Most of the time I’m ok with this, in fact, it’s often, “therapeutic.” However, all of my red flags were going up as Mary spoke…
Red flag number 1: She kept saying things like, “I’m sure this is shocking to you, to hear all of this, but it’s my life!” Warning: she is “exceptionalizing” (not a word, but seemed to fit) her pain. This is dangerous territory, because really, how can we compare our sorrows? What is the point? However, I have learned that this is common among people who tend to play the victim.
Red flag number 2: The way she told her story. Ok, this was probably the biggest thing that put me off. She sat up straight in her chair, clutching her designer purse tightly to her lap, recounting all of these terrible things as if she was reciting her grocery list. She could give me incredible details of the conspiracies that had been a part of her life, but she couldn’t tell me how they still managed to have a hold on her today. Instead of growing and learning from her story, she seemed trapped in the madness.
Red flag number 3: Near the end of our second session, I asked her curiously what she feels God is trying to teach her through her pain. Well, a flip switched people. The calm, well-put together southern lady lost her sh**. It was like Jeckyl and Hyde reincarnated. Fortunately, I’m well-trained, and well supervised, so I carefully and quickly reframed her anger in a productive direction. She responded well, switching back to Dr. Jeckyl, reapplying her lipstick, and exiting just as proper and politely as she has entered. I would be willing to bet good money that I won’t hear from her again. If my four years of counseling has taught me anything it’s this – God will never force his children to face their pain head on. He will patiently wait for us to offer ourselves and others the forgiveness that he has so freely given to us.
Let’s talk about the other type of client (my favorite clients).
I’m in the beginning stages of counseling a family of 5. I met with the parents last week to set goals for the family counseling sessions. I already love these parents. Here’s why:
Showing up. I’m learning both professionally and personally that parenting is mostly about showing up. Showing up for our kids no matter their age or stage, whether it’s difficult or enjoyable. This family is facing serious issues with their kids, but they are not burying their heads in the sand, they are linking arms and gearing up for the battle ahead.
Owning their issues. They’re not offering up their “problem kid,” and saying “fix him/her,” and we’ll be fine. This is such a common mistake – help my kid with ADD learn how to focus and my husband won’t be as angry. Talk to my teenage daughter about self-esteem and my anxiety won’t be as debilitating. In my short four years, I’ve seen powerful change occur when the relationships within the family become the focus and priority.
Including God. When client’s come in doing this on their own, I know we will be successful, whatever our counseling endeavor. These parent’s are sold out for Jesus, which means that our counseling sessions will be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. That doesn’t mean it will be easy, in fact, I’m counting on it being difficult, but I’m also trusting that it will be redemptive and lasting.