These are difficult to describe, but you just know when you have one…There is a sense of clarity, connection, understanding, presence and appreciation.
I recently experienced a “moment” in counseling with a client, which propelled me to write this. I have been working with a female, adolescent client for almost a month, and it has been challenging. She came to see me because she was struggling with depressive symptoms. Her boyfriend of about one year and broken up with her, and as she described it, she “fell into a dark hole.” She had lost her sense of self and identity. We spent the first couple of sessions processing the events that led up to their break-up and discussing the details of their relationship in general. We also discussed her relationship history, family history and current dynamics and other pertinent information. She admitted to suicidal ideations, but denied any intent or plan. However, I was still concerned and decided to increase our once a week sessions to twice a week.
From my perspective, I felt like we had built a decent, therapeutic rapport. She seemed to be comfortable disclosing personal information and in general, she seemed to trust me. However, there still seemed to be this “wall” between us. It was thin, but nonetheless, present. It seemed like we were talking at each other, even though we were listening to what the other was saying. There was a disconnect somewhere, but it was difficult for me to pinpoint the cause.
During our most recent session, I had decided beforehand that I was going to confront this invisible wall. She walked in the room and sat down. She looked at me in affirmation that she was ready to start talking. Before I could get my words out, she said, “I am sorry.” My first reaction was confusion. The quizzical look on my face prompted her to explain. She said, “I know you were going to mention it too,” and then spent the next five minutes admitting that she hadn’t been fully invested in the counseling process. She was honest with me, but at the same time kept me at arms-length at least emotionally. She hadn’t been ready to “work.” It was easier for her to separate or compartmentalize her thoughts and feelings. I expressed my appreciation to her for sharing this and provided support and encouragement.
We continued to discuss this “break through,” and as we were talking, I could feel the counseling process come together. We finally had a connection, an understanding. I felt like she was allowing me to be part of her journey. I felt like there was a purpose, and I could help her find meaning in her life.
Granted not all “moments” are quite this overt and direct. However, it is any time, even fleeting, when the relationship “clicks” into place, and both the client and counselor are present. An experience like the one I described reinforces why I am a counselor. It motivates me to continue in the field and maintain hope, not just for myself, but for the client. Simply put, when I experience a “moment,” I leave feeling fulfilled…and with a smile on my face.
Grace Hipona is a counselor in the state of Virginia. She currently serves as a Mental Health Therapist for a clinic, a counselor for a private practice and is a doctoral candidate. She operates from a strength-based perspective.