Becoming the ClientBy Sarah Enck on December 16, 2015
Practice what you preach.
I'm not one for clichés, but I recently found this idea very convicting. As a student in the M.A. in Counseling program, I continuously advocate for anyone to seek counseling. I believe that anyone could use an unbiased person in their life to ask helpful questions and teach healthier habits. Why would anyone pass on an opportunity to grow?
Self-care is a counseling term that has been emphasized throughout my counseling program. We are taught as counselors to encourage our clients to take care of themselves, but we also need to take care of ourselves. I exercise, participate in ministries at church and maintain healthy relationships, but I do not always take time to process my life.
About a month ago, I realized that I was overdue to see a counselor. It was necessary to advocate for myself and seek help. While I had been able to process with close friends and family, there were some areas of my life that I just needed to share with another person. I needed someone to be an unbiased listener and ask thoughtful questions. I needed to understand what it is like to sit in the client chair.
Becoming the client has helped me in several ways.
1. I learn new counseling skills from my counselor.
I was taught how to convey empathy, demonstrate positive regard and exhibit genuineness in Consulting class. I am able to practice these skills with my clients as part of my internship experience. But observing my counselor move fluidly from question to thought while still effortlessly presenting each skill is incredibly helpful for my own counseling training. The way in which she displays active listening skills has helped me learn to be a more effective listener.
I have also become more grounded in my own counseling philosophy after watching her approach to counseling. The journey of discovering my identity as a counselor has only been enhanced through the therapeutic relationship with my counselor.
2. I am able to know what my clients experience.
Each client represents a different story when they walk into a session. I bring my own hurts, joys, struggles and thoughts when I walk into the room with my counselor. I desire for her to understand my situation and help me think about it from a different perspective. Sharing my story with someone who is not involved in my everyday life is a vulnerable situation and requires a great amount of trust in the relationship. By seeing a counselor myself, I have a greater appreciation for each of my clients as they wrestle with the same vulnerability. What courage to share yourself with someone you see for one hour every week!
3. I have intentional time to reflect.
Time is often an excuse to set aside things that are important for my self-care. School, marriage, ministry, work and friends were reason enough for me to add counseling to my schedule. Now I look forward to each weekly session as a time for me to be still. The questions presented by my counselor offer alternative ways of thinking. My counselor has also provided extra motivation to start journaling again. Writing my thoughts down had always been therapeutic in the past, but through counseling I realized that it is integral for my self-care. Even during the most chaotic of weeks, I have one hour each week to intentionally rest and reflect.
Becoming the client is hard. Sitting in the client chair takes courage, vulnerability and a willingness to tackle hardships in your own life. I encourage people to approach it with a humble spirit and allow change to happen. Once I was willing to dismiss my excuses, I saw how much I needed to be a client too. I can now effectively grow as a counselor and more self-aware individual.