Before the days of tweets, ipods, zune, cell phones, instant gratification and access to the latest and greatest of everything that is built into a disposable society, life brought simpler pleasures. The walk in the woods that connected gramma and grampy to you, the pleasure of seeing two deer resting in the tall grass, feeling safe even as you drive your old Ford tractor ever closer to their spot on the crest of the hill or the pleasure of popping a few cola cans with your old single shot 22 rifle; some things cost little or nothing but bring back fond feelings, even these many years past. The WIP has been a family farm since the 1860’s, in fact the original hand hewn beamed farm house with some modifications (electric, plumbing, siding etc.) still resides where it always has. A father who was able to farm and work a non farm job throughout the great depression was raising his family in his modest home. From all reports they were a tight knit group, and though they were not rich they held their beliefs firm. They were taught to do their chores, make their word mean something and to above all do good works. A young boy, maybe ten years old or so would look forward to a small reward for a hard worked week. You see, IF he did his chores, followed the rules and listened to his teachers and parents come Sunday morning his father would send him to the “Candy Tree” in the front yard. The candy tree was a magical tree in that if the aforementioned was completed properly the young boy would find among the limbs a chocolate bar; though taken for granted by many of us now adays, a chocolate bar was once the thing that was considered a real treat. I am not sure how many years this ritual was followed but I do know that decades later I was blessed with learning of it. It also made an impact on the young boy as well as he told the story to the generations that followed even if the tradition eventually stopped. The tree long since devoid of chocolate still stand proudly on the farm so perhaps one day soon chocolate will be found once more. To me the message is clear, besides doing good deeds; treats need not be expensive to be effective. Memories need not be complicated and impacts can come from many venues. Youthful vigor replaced by crow’s feet and “character” as energy levels decrease, memories become all the more precious. Sometimes sharing these tales with clients can do wonders to help them regain perspective or perhaps reclaim happiness that has been at least temporarily lost. Such stories can come from anywhere so long as they do not share private information of another current or former client. Confidentiality laws are to be followed, but there are so many treasures that are considered open domain. I love these and make them part of my sessions when they are appropriate. One way to help tell the difference of course is to ask yourself “who will benefit from this example” and if you cannot clearly say the client, it is probably better to keep it to yourself. Counseling styles differ and we must remember to be congruent to ourselves. Forcing a style because our boss or the profession feels it is in vogue can often lead to poorly performed sessions. Finding your style can make the difference between a good and a great clinician. As for me, well I am more of a story teller, cognitive based and casually performed. It meets my personality perfectly and most of my clients love my style (a few over the years have hated it, but what can you do? Refer them to someone who has a different style usually does the trick). I have found that when you give an example that is outside what the client is emotionally invested in, you may help them gain a perspective that might otherwise be lost. Once they have the new perspective you can help them integrate it into the emotional situation they are currently dealing with. Some stories may be yours, others may be invented or a composite of events, but so long as they fit the current need they just may do the trick. Preceding generations did not have all the answers to be sure but if we cull from their experiences and dealings we can often find gems that could serve us well today.
Warren Corson III (Doc Warren) is a counselor and the clinical & executive director of a community counseling agency in central CT (www.docwarren.org).