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May 20, 2010

Ballerina Counselor

I mentioned in an earlier post that one of my life roles is a ballerina. I love ballet. It is my heart, passion, de-stressor, and avenue of worship. Now, you may wonder, how does ballet relate to counseling? I've reflected on that question several times in the process of creating my professional identity. Here are some of my personal reflections. Ballet taught me the important connection between the body and emotions. My group counseling class did an activity this past week in which we had to nonverbally display an emotion. This activity reminded me of artistry week at the ballet school where I trained. During artistry week, we intensely focused on bringing emotion to our movement instead of moving without purpose. We began the week with simple tasks, such as, "Dance like the color blue." Eventually, we brought more complicated emotions and situations to our movement, such as, "Dance like you just learned about a recent death in your family." It never ceased to amaze me how these varying emotions and scenarios affected our pace, posture, hand gestures, tilt of the head, eye contact, breath, etc. Thanks to my ballet training, I will always pay attention to my clients' nonverbal behavior and ask them the story behind their particular movements and nonverbal idiosyncrasies. Ballet gives an image of ease and perfection, but underneath the presentation, there is so much internal work occurring in the dancers. This past semester my husband and I attended a dance performance on campus. During the performance, he leaned over and said, "Their faces look so serene and calm, but when I look at their stomachs, I realize how hard they're breathing." This contrasting image of perfection and struggle greatly intrigues me. I am constantly learning in life that things never seem to be the way they appear. For example, a classmate recently shared that a friend committed suicide in February. I felt terrible because I had no idea. This classmate never displayed anger or despair in the class we shared together in February. Also, I am one who will usually say, "I'm great!" when people ask how I am even though I may not be feeling so great at that moment. As a result, I will never assume that my clients' exterior perfectly matches the interior. I believe that everything we do in life has purpose. There may be passions in your life that you've never connected with counseling. Therefore, I encourage you to reflect on those passions and think about the following questions. How do your life's passions contribute to your career and growth as a counselor? How do you creatively integrate the lessons learned from these passions into your work?

Courtnay Veazey is a graduate student at Mississippi State University pursuing a Master of Science in clinical mental health counseling and working as a graduate assistant at MSU's Career Center

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