Social activist founded Tarana Burke, founded the Me Too movement to help survivors of sexual violence heal in a community of “empowerment and empathy[i].” More than a decade later the #MeToo movement went viral as numerous celebrities such as Alyssa Milano, Simone Biles, and Lady Gaga came forward with their experiences and shed light on the “magnitude of the problem[ii].” The staggering statistics which average that one in four women and one in six men are sexually assaulted within their lifetime[iii] began to gain widespread attention. The odds are high that our clients are directly or indirectly affected by the #MeToo movement, as counselors we must be prepared to help them in their journey[iv].
Client may be triggered
The first, and perhaps most obvious, consideration is that clients may be triggered by the movement. Whereas therapy provides a safe space for processing trauma, a client with a trauma history may not have the luxury of keeping related discussions to the counseling room. Depending on where they are in their journey, clients may witness an increase of triggers in their environment by skimming social media and engaging in hot topic discussions.
If your client is enrolled in counseling for trauma concerns it may be beneficial to prompt the client to share their knowledge and impressions about the movement. It may be helpful to review triggers to assess for applicability. If you recognize a potential influence, it may be helpful to illuminate the connection for the client to increase self-awareness and empowerment. If coping has not already been addressed in counseling, it may be practical to provide psychoeducation on general coping strategies such as stress management, self-soothing, grounding, and relaxation[v],[vi].
Clients may be distracted
The movement may bring new topics to the surface. A client may recognize concerns that are not necessarily new to them, but new to their active awareness. Allow your client the space to share their impressions as their new view may influence case-conceptualization.
It is possible that clients may be distracted from their own process as the movement may have brought them back to areas in which they perceived they have grown and triumphed over in therapy. Normalize this process as healing from trauma can be a lifelong process.vii Reduce stressors in order to make symptomology more manageablev. Regardless of the current concern, if the client is affected by the movement, focus on coping prior to returning to present problems[vii]
Finally, the client may be distracted as the movement may not bring personal concerns to the surface, but the movement may cause the client to recognize the broad degree of severity influencing their loved ones, and persons worldwide. If this occurs, recognize the connection to the client. How does this recognition influence their presenting problems, wellbeing, meaning, and purpose?
Clients may seem unfazed
Of course it is possible that clients may be unaffected by the movement. We should not push clients to elicit a connection that is not naturally occurring. However, it is important to discern whether a client is truly unaffected, or potentially unaware. For example, a client may be experiencing an increase of symptomology but may be uncertain of the cause. Counselors must be aware of indicators and context that may affect, and potentially exacerbate, clinical concernsvi.
Client may feel empowered
In the movement, several courageous individuals have come forward with difficult truths in the hopes of change and justice. A client in counseling, particularly if attending for related concerns, may be inspired by witnessing the wave of brave persons confronting their inner demons in order to heal. Hearing the variety of stories in the media, clients may feel understood. Further, if a client admires a particular celebrity, they may feel a connection to the modeled disclosure.
The parallel experience occurs in counseling in which clients may endure an arduous journey with the intent to achieve wellness and growth. Hence, regardless of the connection of concerns, clients may feel motivated to delve into their presenting problems. Clients who may have previously been hesitant or fearful, may experience a jump in readiness. As a counselor, it is helpful to highlight a surge in eagerness. While being mindful of pace, it is helpful to note the ability to grow from the process and not only feel well again, but attain a level of strength that they had not achieve before.vii
In addition to assessing for the influence of the #MeToo movement on our clients, it is also our ethical duty to self-reflectiv. Prior to addressing the potential impact with our clients, we must consider how the movement affects us. We may have our own triggers from the movement and it is our responsibility to recognize and address the effect in order to reduce bias in the counseling room. Further, if clients are affected, we must be mindful of how witnessing their process reverberates. Take a moment to self-check. Remember to tend to your own wellness to be able to assess influences and foster growth in the lives of your clients.
[iv] American Counseling Association. (2014). ACA code of ethics. Alexandria, VA: Author.
[v] Sanderson, C. (2014). Counselling skills for working with trauma: Healing from child sexual abuse, sexual violence and domestic abuse. London : Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2014.
[vi] Brown, S. L. (2007). Counseling victims of violence. [electronic resource] A handbook for helping professionals. Alameda CA : Hunter House, 2007.
[vii] Calhoun, & Tedeschi, R. G. (2004). The Foundations of Posttraumatic Growth: New Considerations. Psychological Inquiry, (1), 93-102.
Shainna Ali is a counselor educator and owner of Integrated Counseling Solutions in Central Florida. Dr. Ali is passionate about highlighting the importance of mental health awareness, assessment, and care in living a happy and healthy life. Her areas of focus in research and practice include identity and culture, emotional intelligence, trauma, and creativity in counseling. For more information on Dr. Ali please visit IntegratedCounselingSolutions.com