As I see clients and their families for the first time, I get a sense of personal loss that can be infectious if one is not careful. Performing diagnostic assessments opens the world of the client and allows me to see, although dimly, into some very dark and personal places. The assessor is the first line of defense and offense to help the hurting client bleed a little bit less with our therapeutic band-aid.
The whole intent of the psychosocial/contextual/environmental/spiritual assessment is to gather enough information about the client’s presenting symptoms in order to develop treatment recommendations, provide a diagnosis, and wrap it all up in a tidy package called the narrative. If the assessment is thorough enough, the next clinician should be able to start the therapeutic relationship with a nice guideline for the treatment plan.
In an effort to supply the first round of clinical observations and interventions, I see the client and family sitting in front of me with a mixture of optimism and bewilderment. The ubiquitous anxiety, depression, fear, and uncertainty slowly fade as a spark of hope, peace, patience, and self-confidence ignites. There are so many questions I have to ask to perform my specific job well. There are very few words needed in order to fulfill my personal calling, not just as a counselor but as a God-fearing Christian who happens to be called into a counseling vocation.
I have come to understand that active listening does not have to be re-active listening. As clients come to talk with professionals, they are gifting us a piece of their soul that had not been gifted to many other people. Seclusion is not working for them anymore and now “the other person”, who is not in their quality world, is needed to help supply whatever need or want is lacking.
As a counselor who uses discernment to guide my thoughts, I tend to be very sensitive to just “being” instead of trying to be something I am not. Knowing that I will never know enough or be able to say the right words all the time, I let the Holy Spirit silently guide my actions in ways I would never be able to verbalize. Before I enter the counseling room for the day, I ask that the room be sanctified and my thoughts and actions be guided by the Holy Spirit. I have never been let down in my request for discernment, peace, and most importantly silent patience. Knowing that I am never alone and on my own helps me to “just be” with my clients.
Josh Andrews is a counselor at a behavioral health agency working with children, adolescents, and families. His professional interests include the spiritual side of humankind, cognitive behavior therapy, reality therapy, and advancing the knowledge and practice of professional counseling.