The past five months has flown by, and my intention to write a post once a month has zipped right past me as well. I must be honest. I sat down numerous times to write, but I was so focused on my internship, finishing my classes, taking the NCE exam, and completing my manuscript (which was due to my publisher in May), that I struggled to find the energy to reflect on what was happening in my life.
But, after my to-list was complete and I was able to take a breath, I had enough energy to look back on all that’s happened in the past five months, and I’m grateful for all of it. My internship allowed me to truly discover who I am as a therapist and what kind of therapist I want to grow into. And I discovered the power of CBT, DBT, Narrative therapy and ACT (Acceptance Commitment Therapy), along with the power of healing through expressive arts therapies.
In looking back on my internship, I am grateful for the clients who were ready and able to allow me to guide them in making critical changes in their life. I also experienced the limitations of being a therapist and the truths that exist as a counselor. I experienced the frustration and disappointment that accompanies not being able to help someone because they are not ready to make difficult changes and/or see the reality of their situation. At the same time, I grew enough to understand that just because a client doesn’t make changes within a certain time frame, this doesn’t mean they didn’t gain something from their therapy experience. And I never lose hope in clients. Change is always possible, and maybe change for some clients means later.
Towards the end of my internship I began to pass on the basics of Victor Frankl’s Logotherapy to my clients by asking them to think about “the why” in their life in order to help them discover their inner motivation to change. I also introduced them to the concept of “Locus of Control”, and the ability they have to “make things happen” rather than “things happening to them”. For my adolescent clients, this was very enlightening, encouraging, freeing and empowering for them.
I also gained a stronger belief in the process of story within the therapeutic relationship. I am naturally drawn to assisting people with thinking about their life as a story. I enjoy helping clients look back on what’s already happened for the sole purpose of seeing what works for them and what doesn’t moving forward. Simple questions like “If your life was a novel, what would happen next? What does the rest of the story look like to you? How do you want this story to proceed?” have yielded some in-depth conversations with clients, and helped them look at the process of change in a less threatening way.
In regards to the power of change, I had a few adolescent clients experience how one positive move can have a domino effect in life. This helped them become their own inspiration because of their willingness to be uncomfortable, and take constructive actions towards change.
In my personal life, the day my graduation gown arrived in the mail, my son was zipping his up, getting ready to attend his high school graduation ceremony on my daughter’s 17th birthday. And while I reflect on all this, I have an abundance of gratitude for all that’s happened in the past few years. As I look forward to the next chapter in my life, my biggest challenge is to remain present and patient as I work through the process of searching for where to go next. And while I work through this process, I keep my “why” of making a difference in the world in the forefront of my mind, helping one client at a time, writing one book at a time, while working towards being a part of the solution.
Shari Brady is a counselor-in-training at PEER Services, Inc., an agency located in suburban Chicago, dedicated to the treatment and prevention of substance use disorders. She is also an award-winning author who has a passion for adolescents and the struggles they face. You can read more about her and her books at sharibrady.com.