Whatever our theoretical leanings as counselors acting as our authentic-selves and being in the present with our clients is essential. This is taught in school, experienced in internship, and is reinforced in supervision. It is expected in agency work as well as private practice. This state of being for helping professionals is ethical and appropriate. No matter where we are in our training or careers, counselors aspire to this – be there with the client.
All right, now. Consider life outside of session. Here we are in our private lives. Going to the store, watching television, eating a Panini, perhaps? Are we in the present? Are we there for our loved ones, our colleagues, our community? Are you finding these questions are a little unwieldy? Me, too.
Please know that I am not criticizing any of us. We are all undoubtedly busy with modern life and I’m certain we all strive toward being present for those around us and for ourselves. And undeniably – being present, even part of the time - is a challenge. Much of the time the past runs through my head like a home movie and often the future is location I anxiously long to check-in to, like a hotel.
But sometimes we may not see the forest for the trees. As counselors out there in our everyday world we can utilize the very tools we help our clients discover. These tools can help not only our clients, but us, to center ourselves, express emotions honestly and lay the foundation for being present. Take me, for instance, some of the tools I share with clients are meditation, relaxation techniques, and centering exercises.
So what do you share with clients? What do you help them unearth to improve their lives, manage stress and keep them on track – or maybe nudge them toward letting go just a little? Remember these tricks of the trade are available to you, too. We counselors are rich with resources. So – and I can’t believe I am going to suggest this - drill, baby drill!
Gandhi famously said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Of course, he gloriously and painfully lived those words. As I try unsuccessfully not to be intimidated by the Mahatma, this notion inspires me to – in even little ways – be the change.
Susan Jennifer Polese is a counselor in training, a personal coach and a freelance writer. Her areas of interest are mindfulness, divergent thinking, and creativity in counseling.