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May 15, 2013

A Lifetime Endeavor

One of the most daunting challenges I find as a mental health counselor working in a domestic violence and sexual assault agency is having patience – patience with clients who are resistant to change.  And, boy, so many are.

Of course, resistance is a natural part of counseling and healing … in essence it is a natural part of life.  However, I work with so many clients who have been so traumatized and live in a society that puts women second (and let’s not pretend that this isn’t true – that doesn’t help anyone, women or men) – that they can be extremely out of touch with reality and their place in it.  In one breath they can explain how things have to change and in the next maintain that any kind of change just isn’t necessary.  Also, many of my clients are in dangerous situations and dire circumstances – so wanting to direct them is a strong urge, one I need to pay attention to and curb when needed.

Wait a minute now!  This blog post is not about trashing clients for being who they are – in crisis and perhaps stuck – but it is rather about, well, patience – being able to wait.  I really feel that this ability is key to being an effective counselor and most of all key in avoiding counselor burn out.  Patience, waiting, withholding judgment, listening….speaking of listening…

An interesting thing happened to me last week.  I had a bit of a sore throat and I wasn’t able to talk as much in sessions as I normally do.  I was just well, more quiet and being so something wonderful happened.  Many of my clients appreciated the silence and went places emotionally I don’t believe they would have if I had been gabbing it up.  Giving our clients a chance to just “be” and doing so with patience is one of my goals – or rather than a goal perhaps it is an ongoing focus.  Once goals are achieved they are essentially complete – whereas being present, patient and supportive of clients is a lifetime endeavor.  Accepting and helping a client work through resistance is another…and it is a good life.
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.

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