Counseling Today's March 2016 issue explored different figures that inspire counselors in their present work. Figures such as Carl Rogers, Victor Frankl, and Gandhi were named. The article validated my belief that inspiration for counseling work can come in many forms. Someone once told me "it takes all kinds of people to make a world", and it stuck. In the world of Counseling, we are lucky to explore the things and talk about the people that help us make meaning of life. We can reach to the depths with metaphors and also remind clients of simple beauty. Knowing characters who illuminate life’s central questions or bring hope to dark places always helps us in our work.
We can find inspiration for our work in many places, that’s a beautiful thing! I find reading novels, autobiographies and poetry to be inspirational. I keep an inspiration board in my office with pictures of some of my favorite quotes and images. Did you happen to inherit a blank corkboard in your counseling office? Each of the offices I’ve had was furnished with chairs, a desk with a computer, bookshelves and a corkboard. The board once served the purpose of holding important phone numbers and reminders. With the ease of finding information on the Internet, my corkboard was becoming obsolete. Creating an inspiration board has been a fun way to remind me of what’s meaningful in my life, and to start conversations with clients about inspiration. Inspiration boards are nothing new, and craft lovers create them in many unique ways. With websites like Pinterest, users can even create online inspiration boards and 'pin' favorite links.
To protect my own private information and identity, and to minimize transference issues, I like to keep personal stuff in my office to a minimum. No pictures of the people in my life. No band or movie posters. I like to decide what I disclose to clients. As a consequence, my office ends up resembling something from a furniture magazine. Over the years however, parts of me come sneaking in and clients ask me about those personal things in my office anyway. Is that your dog? Is that a picture of Italy? Have you been there? Oh, I see you went to school in Michigan?
My inspiration board offers an opportunity for me to engage in this personal small talk with clients, and for them to get to know a few things that are important to me. Although the board isn't for them, it's for me! It gives them something to talk about with me if they want.
My current board holds a picture my colleague drew, a poem by the author Becky Birtha, a quote by The Kid Present, and some inspirational people. Activist Vandana Shiva’s efforts to support biodiversity in India through seed programs that empower women remind me to strive for empowerment in my clients. Malala Yousafzai's commitment to education for girls helps me remember to encourage students to persist with education and not to take my education for granted. This year I happened upon a video of the great footballer Pelé at his final game in 1977, I keep a picture of him as well, remembering his beautiful smile and his request that the crowd repeat the simple word ‘love’ three times still brings tears to my eyes and makes me think of the power of love, and how most our clients need more of it.
Clients usually ask me about my board on the way out of the office since it is near the door. I’ve also noticed these short conversations that open up on our walk out help ground clients and bring them back to the present and get them thinking about the world. They tell me about what they find to be inspirational too. I never realized how this simple office décor choice would become so much fun, be so thought provoking or draw out stories from me and my clients to share.
Amy Rosechandler, MS, LMHC is a counselor in Rochester, NY working with teens and adults at a local university counseling center and in her own private practice, Clarity Mental Health Counseling. Amy adores group counseling, youth development, and strengths based approaches to therapy. Read more about Amy at http://claritymentalhealth.org/about.php