It’s the start of a new year and many have proclaimed that this past year of 2016 was the.worst.year.ever. Others insist that we get perspective and stop proclaiming that it was “the worst.” In particular, much of what made this year “the worst” was the election process leading up to the current president-elect. Regardless of who one voted for, it was a tough journey to get to where we are and will continue to be so for the next four years.
As a result, I realized more keenly than ever how my feelings and thoughts make a difference in how I will counsel clients. We often talk about self-care in the mental health profession, which includes my own ability to regulate my emotions by untangling my thoughts and feelings. When it came to the election, I had to figure out how to maintain a measure of composure so I may be fully present with clients however they voted. This seemed to be particularly important as I was counseling college students for which many voted for the first time and for some were distraught about the election results.
Not only was it important in relation to clients, I also realized how it important it was for me as a mental health professional, as I discovered that some of my classmates differed from me in my presidential choice. I felt disappointed and frustrated when I heard the reasons for their vote; however, I had to think through what it meant to be around peers and future colleagues who will indeed differ from me especially politically and philosophically.
Again, my supervisor guided me towards radical acceptance, which is foundational to Dialectical Behavior Therapy. For me, it meant choosing to fully accept the election results and the reality for which I am living in now. However, I found that the other side of DBT is just as important – change. While I may fully accept what has happened, I also choose to mindfully resist. Resistance or what I consider creating effective change within my context has been a means to reduce anxiety, depression and anger. For me, it has meant addressing the mental health needs of undocumented immigrants; thus getting involved in a local non-profit organization that provides educational opportunities for undocumented young people.
As I went through this process of acceptance and resistance, I found that I do the same with my clients. That is, I support and encourage them to come to a place of acceptance while also making changes that matter to them so they can live more fulfilling lives. In the end, the result is greater resilience in facing the present moments and all the moments to come.
Elena Yee is a counselor-in-training at Rhode Island College and a counseling intern at Bryant University, completing the last year of her Counseling Program in Providence, Rhode Island. She is looking forward to bringing together her years of experience in Student Affairs to the vocation of clinical mental health counseling to serve marginalized and under-represented clients. She is interested in the healing of trauma through EMDR, effectively assessing for suicidality, and advocating for the needs of those most vulnerable in our society. You can learn more about Elena at www.linkedin.com/in/elenatyee