I’ve been working as a counselor for a little over two years. A lot has changed since my first session. And a lot still remains the same. I still need thirty minutes of silence before each session. I still want to help my clients to the best of my ability, and I don’t think it’s ever going to change. I still make rigorous notes, like I’m trying to solve a crime. I also still constantly question if I know what I am doing. But a lot has changed. And of all the changes, my perception of the counseling space stays atop the list!
Whenever I enter the therapy room, whether it be a physical office or a zoom room, I always enter with the mindset that thar one hour belongs to the person waiting in the room, trusting me to help them in their journey of mental wellbeing. And thus, I should do my best to not disappoint them. Until recently, I believed I had to push aside all my problems, all my intrusive thoughts, all my anxiety, and just focus on being a counselor to my client. I can malfunction as a human after the hour passes. I’ve now realized that it was not the best approach.
Counselors, therapists or psychologists obviously don’t have all the answers. If they did, the answer would be available online, and nobody had to pay for their therapy sessions. But human beings are complicated and not one answer fits them all. So instead of just handing out solutions, counselors take you on a journey to understand yourself better so you can figure out what solutions work for you the best. And the journey can only be fulfilling if there’s a sense of partnership amongst the voyagers. Achieving such partnership requires understanding, trust, and a sense of connectedness.
I thought a good counselor had to know it all, – what to say at what point, and what steps to take next, which technique to use, and which test to conduct. But I was wrong. A good counselor does not know it all. And the counseling space won’t work if the counselor knows it all. Sometimes… actually most of the time, you learn from your clients. You both come into the counseling room, with your respective experiences, your mistakes, and your learnings. Nobody knows it all, so together you both figure out what can be done to make sure you both grow in some way through the session.
That one hour, you take the client on a journey. Different clients usually have different destinations to reach to from the journeys. Some just want to explore and see where the road takes them. Some are looking for hidden treasures. Some already know the way, but just need a little help getting through. No matter what the goal is, the counselor and the client work together. The counseling room is co-working, and co-learning space. You both leave from it with something more than you started off with. And slowly and not always steadily, you both get there.
This realization that I don’t have to be one with all the answers has been both a relief and a blessing. The only thing I need to know is that the client is here because they trust me to help them through something that they aren’t able to figure out on their own. And my job is to make sure I’m there without judgement, and with compassion.