People don’t come to counselling to get a promotion at work. They usually come because:
1 – something very difficult has happened
2 – they’re near their wit’s end and have lost hope that they will be successful in sorting themselves out
3 – a cycle of low mood has repeated itself one too many times and they’re scared they might be stuck in it
4 – they have become tearful or have started shouting at themselves in the car
5 – they’re struggling to sleep and drink/drugs/food/extreme sport/gambling/porn can’t fill the gaps any more
6 – they have begun worrying about having a serious illness or killing themselves
7 – someone who loves them has made them come
The first part of our work will be to work to establish what has happened, what’s happening now and why it has caused such strain. We then move on to ask if there were any ‘creases’ in their life before it happened which they think need ironing out – creases which may have made it more difficult for them to weather the current storm.
As we grow we process our life from the age we are at the time. Subsequently most of us will conceive of ourselves based on the understandings of an 8, 14, 18, 22, 27 year old… and so on, and when pressed we may react to the world from our younger parts. The assumptions we made about ourselves along the way are so integral to our sense of self that we probably never question them – we assume they they could not be any different, we are stuck with them. We can’t see the creases as we assume them to be part of our naturally crumpled shirt.
For me, the most powerful aspect of counselling isn’t working through the problem the client initially brought, it’s the effect that casting a joint pair of eyes across the accumulated creases can have. As a pair, we can achieve things that most people struggle to do on their own – we are able to see the wood for the trees – and subsequently we:
1 – question the assumptions of a 8, 14, 18, 22, 27… year old through the eyes of the adult (young people take on a lot of responsibility and guilt they don’t realise should have never been theirs)
2 – see creases as things to work through rather than be stuck with, and work out what level of improvement we think is attainable
3 – devise strategies to put boundaries in place which provide an optimum level of self care to the client and give them space to genuinely be themselves
4 – work out new ways to live well (and a plan of action and support to start putting them in place) and keep life peaceful at its core
As you may imagine, when clients have ironed out some of the creases which lay under what brought them to counselling in the first place they become stronger adults in all aspect of their lives. Not surprisingly, they begin to notice that not only have their personal lives improved, their professional lives have too. Once they have decided where their boundaries need to be and how to enact them, others seem more likely to respect them (though there can be an initial period of resistance). Drawing the right line becomes easier and the process more peaceful.
Approaching our professional life with our immediate problems worked through, some creases ironed out and a knowledge of any which persist (and the reasons why), empowers us to live and work from the maturity level of the age we currently are. We limit the potential for being subconsciously tripped up by our younger, more reactive, parts. This type of counselling goes beyond the quick fix, it allows us to take up a considered position within ourselves and with others, making us increasingly resilient and proactive rather than reactive. The gains are felt all around – inside ourselves, at home and at work.