Those of you who know me, know that I am blatantly honest at times. Of course, during therapy, this talent gets used subtly, at the right time and in the right way. Therapy is after all, about listening to words, body language and keywords. These keywords lead my mind down a therapeutic path; I instinctively know where to go. This is not something learned at university; for although my practice is based on experience and learning, it also relies heavily on intuition.
However, I have found that during the introduction, before a story emerges, clients behave in two ways, and it is their attitude in the first five minutes, that reveals whether they are there by choice, or by pressure: The first is uncomfortable, and needs to have their story drawn out, and the second type is overflowing with words, emotion and some sense of moral anguish. So, there are clients that want to be there for self-improvement, and clients that don’t. In fact, the ones that don’t want to be there may be aware that it will be good for them in the long-term, or they are in denial about being in therapy - with the stigma that that entails, or have made an assumption that it doesn’t work.
Importantly, it takes a lot of courage to book in to see a counsellor, and I applaud that. The less judgement clients receive the better. Yet, from my side, I can tell the clients who want to be there, and these clients are easier to work with. These clients are grateful, willing to learn and grow, are eager to find solutions and ask a lot of questions. This type of client also makes it easier to assess whether their issues are mental, biological/genetic, historical, time-based, or socially learned behaviours: Sometimes they are a combination of a few. An example of this might be depression. Depression can be caused by an underlying grief for a life that has taken a turn to the left, when the person wanted to go right, or it can be caused by a lack of hormones (serotonin, dopamine) because the stresses of modern life promote a high level of cortisol (flight or fight). Sadly, more people today go to the doctor’s clinic for anti-depressants than for anything else.
The unconditional, positive regard that counsellors offer, is that old social acceptance that we once had while living in small communities. We cared for each other. People did not go into old folks homes, mental facilities or daycare. Odd behaviours were accepted as eccentric, and seriously antisocial behaviours resulted in a short life span. The very thing, we so desperately need when things get stressful, are lessened by family support and solidarity. This has unfortunately diminished now, and until we once again live in small collectives, we will have to turn to friends and family when they have the time to listen, and to counsellors and psychiatrists when they do not. Until then, maintaining, good emotional health should be part of an overall, health plan, together with exercise, nutritional food and fresh air and sunlight.
Consequently, life isn’t easy in this day and age, and sometimes we need clarity or guidance on a situation; a kind word of encouragement from our social networks, or more acceptance and less judgement. However, if this is not forthcoming from the people we spend time with, we need to act like our own best friend, and book in to see a professional.