After just recently reviewing the June 2016 issue of Counseling Today; the article, “Stepping Across the Poverty Line” really resonated with me. I too, work with a disadvantaged population. The article pays special attention to the fact that we as counselors needs to observe and address client’s issues to determine if the client is getting his or her basic needs met as part of the therapeutic process.
If the client is more concerned about their next meal or whether or not their utilities are going to be turned off; those concerns take precedence to the individual more than discussing mental health symptoms and cognition. What can we do to align the client with those basic survival needs? After those needs are met, we can empower the client to work collaboratively on those mental health goals that they are looking to accomplish.
I think it comes down to conceptualizing what would you do in their place? When I was in graduate school working with an adult client who was receiving mental health support I dealt with this same type of situation. I was trying to help the client to become engaged in socialization activities to help decrease depressive symptoms. The client was more concerned with such issues as; how to get money to pay for her car to be fixed and whether or not she would have enough food for her family until the next paycheck. When we take into account Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, those survival needs are of utmost concern to the client’s well-being and are of preeminent concern.
Joanne Thomas is a Resident in Counseling, completing clinical residency to become a Licensed Professional Counselor in the state of Virginia. She has discovered her passion of working with youth and provides both individual and family therapy and concurrently is completing coursework to obtain her credential as a Registered Play Therapist.