PERSONAL COUNSELLING (2)
I started the session with my observation that, last week ,I felt I had been a ‘perfect client’ by talking freely and offering just enough grit to make the session interesting. My counsellor commented that this was the reason counsellors were okay charging lower fees for counselling students as, generally, ‘…they didn’t have massive issues…’.
What an interesting observation. I had several immediate thoughts: firstly, was I boring her? Did I have mundane ‘student-like’ stories that she has heard before? Was I taking up a session that a more interesting or higher-paying client could have had? I have chatted with hairdressers before about the quick ‘dry-trim’ or ‘short-back-and-sides’ and heard that although hairdressers feel these are dull, they still bring in money and so are tolerated. Am I the counselling equivalent of a ‘dry-trim’?
My most important thought came later. I began to wonder what I was permitted to take to the sessions and what her definition of a ‘massive issue’ might be. This lead me to assess my particular bag of issues – relationships with family and ex-partners, work stresses, losses and grief and my concerns over progressive health condition. All of these are important to me and each may have an impact on the way I relate to and work with a client. Fundamentally, I identified my existential wonderings: at 51, I have fewer tomorrows than yesterdays and I wonder how I will fill them in a way that is genuine, valuable and makes sense. Am I too old to make the leap to change careers? Am I really fulfilled by what I do now? Surely these are BIG Issues – life, the Universe and Everything questions. So am I paying enough to be expect her to sit with me while I unpick them?
If I was being truly congruent, I would ask my counsellor these questions – certainly, members of my group have challenged me about this and I honestly must say that I am not sure why I didn’t ask. What it has caused me to reflect on is, firstly, the quality of our relationship – the money I pay causing me to pause and edit the issues I want to bring to counselling is not creating a space of safety, equality and non-judgement. Secondly, how easy it is to shut a human down with an unthinking remark. I wonder in all of my encounters with people, how many times a quick reply, comment, witty quip from me has prevented the other from truly explaining what is going on for them in that moment? I can’t redo those moments but I can make it my responsibility in the future to take a pause and consider who the person is and how she might feel right now if I want to respond in a way that enables the other to open, rather than close, their doors.