How do we know if we are helping?
As counselors we rely on multiple sources of information in order to learn whether clients are meeting their treatment goals. For example: assessment instruments; clients’ reports; family members; and other professionals’ evaluations.
In spite of our best efforts, it is sometimes hard to tell whether we are making any progress. When the product of counseling is invisible we doubt our abilities.
NOTE: Here I will not discuss cases where we have failed to provide appropriate care.
What if we have acted in the client’s best interest and we still do not see any positive change? What if problems are chronic and progress is so small that it is hard to see with a magnifying glass? How do we remain optimistic? How do we find meaning in our work? How do we protect ourselves from burnout?
Why does a seasoned counselor find himself daydreaming about becoming a carpenter? How do we materialize the products of our work?
Here are six suggestions:
1. SELF-AWARENESS. Do the type of setting and population of clients match your professional strengths? Do you thrive in crises? Do you feel demoralized when working with chronically ill patients? Do you value more the ‘baby’ steps your clients take over time under your steady guidance?
Journal. Blog. Publish an article.
3. PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT.
Frame your certificates. Update your resume. Attend additional training. Do you not have a sense of pride of your professionalism when you see all your education and credentials in print?
4. SHARE WHAT YOU KNOW.
Teach. Mentor. Supervise. Share the lessons you have learned with others. It is rewarding.
Work in your garden. Decorate. Take a class in auto mechanics or photography. Engage in hands-on activities.
progress with clients. Discuss activities or rituals that are meaningful for them.
We must continue to seek the balance. We live in a material world “but eyes are blind. You have to look with the heart.” (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince)
Maya Georgieva is a counselor with a keen interest in child maltreatment prevention. She is a doctoral student in Counselor Education and Supervision at Marymount University and a volunteer crisis worker.