A common question I hear from clients is “how do you listen to (depression, problems, trauma) all day?” “I could never do your job, how do you not give up hope?” I usually have two answers. First, it is challenging hearing many sorrows and hardships. Some days the best I can do is snuggle with my dog and find comfort in knowing my job is to help and heal. The second answer is that as much time as I spend focusing on despair, more of the time I am listening to experiences of people overcoming problems. Client experiences of resiliency are far more powerful to me. I have a lot of training and experience on how to keep up hope! I recently attended a workshop with Angel Yuen from the Narrative Therapy Centre of Toronto which focused on "Double Listening to Stories of Hope and Despair". The training focused on acknowledging and valuing clients' varied response to hardships. While clients experience anger, sorrow and hopelessness, we can also hear ways clients respond with skills, purpose and strength. I apply my own skills for keeping up hope to my work every day. I find this hopefulness is central to our profession as counselors.
Recently, I have also found that I can use skills for keeping up hope when there is pain and difficulty in the world. Angel Yuen's training on listening for hope was especially helpful when confronting news about the violence that occurred in Orlando. I returned from the training late night Saturday and woke up to the news on Sunday. I saw images of such pain and was heartbroken. I also read about different politician’s response to these events. Many of the responses sounded hopeless and afraid. This is when I tried to use my double listening skills. I was able to hear and remember about the pride in the LGBT community and also the fun and solidarity that cannot be taken away from the community, no matter what. I am working on keeping up hope and 'double listening' during this time.
News about mass shootings, violence and hatred across the world can be hard to bear, especially for compassionate people and healers. We not only experience our own pain, but try to make sense of it along with our clients, friends and colleagues. During these times, people may turn to counselors for wisdom about understanding tragedy. When questions about the psychological state of criminals or terrorists appear, mental health experts may also be consulted. Counselors play an important role during these times. We can provide information, hold spaces for processing and comfort. We may again be asked, "how do you work with these kinds of problems day in and day out?" My answer, again, will be about keeping up hope.
Yuen, A. (2009). Less pain, more gain: Explorations of responses versus effects when working with the consequences of trauma. Explorations: An E-Journal of Narrative Practice. Number 1, 6–16. Dulwich Centre Foundation. Retrieved online at: http://www.narrativetherapycentre.com/Documents/Less_Pain_More_Gain_2009AYuen.pdf
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