I have been counseling for ten years and I have learned a thing or two in those ten years. I have learned to meet families, children and couples where they are. I have learned you can’t rush progress and probably the biggest gem is people only change when they are ready. I work with families who are in crisis constantly. A majority of my cases revolve around abuse and neglect issues. These families are dealing with long, long standing issues that likely date back to their parents and grandparents. Issues such as poverty, physical, sexual and emotional abuse, lack of transportation, substance abuse issues, incest and the list goes on.
So what irritates me about this? Surprisingly not the client (s) but the workers involved in these cases. I get tired of being a service put in the home when no one knows what else to do with that client. Don’t get me wrong there are always issues but when you are only granted so much time there are only so many issues you can deal with and if the problem at the time is transportation who wants to talk about being sexually abused years ago. Chances are that client has managed (albeit poorly) to move around that wound in their life and move on. Now clients don’t always understand that some of what happens to them can be related to some unresolved issues from their past but they forge ahead.
Sometimes workers who utilize my services say to me “it’s too bad you didn’t fix that family” or “Why didn’t you fix them?” ninety-nine percent of the time they are kidding but I think there’s truth in humor . These statements frustrate me on a bad day. Most of these workers have degrees in Social Work, Counseling or other related fields but what I see them struggling with the most is attempting to wear both hats at once. They try to use their counseling skills while they remove children and that never works. Because clients see them as the enemy and who wants advice or reassurance from someone who is taking your children?
So how do I handle these negative-nellies? Usually I make a joke, agree with them, disassociate, or just walk away. I have faith in my abilities as a counselor so I know I am doing what is right for the client and myself. Because I have to live with myself and if I felt I was merely working toward getting a client to confess to something or looking to put a band-aid on the situation so a case can be closed then I need to find a new profession. Counseling is a tough enough profession without being blamed for everyone else shortfalls.
Julie North is an in home family counselor in a rural county in South-Central Michigan. She has a private practice and is currently being trained in TF-CBT and complex trauma therapies.