A whole person approach
What does my presence mean? I am there listening to you and what you tell me about your story. I need to really listen so I can capture the whole picture of what is challenging you at the moment
I am listening with my ears, eyes, in fact, all my senses
I am listening to understand and if I am not present to you and your story then I might miss vital bits of information that will help us to address the crux of your matter
I am not the expert by any means. I am here to accompany you as we explore your story, your challenges. My role is to listen, to work with you in asking the right questions, to be curious about the what, when, where, who and how of your story. I believe that you have the answers within you. Life experience and its impact creates barriers for you to get to the guts of what’s going on. Its ok- there is nothing wrong with that. It’ s good that your self develops strategies to protect you until you can stare things in the face and make decisions from the understanding you have gained.
So together we will decide to make a sort of contract for the work. It’s never set in concrete, of course. It’s the way it is too- it’s an organic process, counselling challenges. And more than often what you come to understand is not what you thought was “it “after all! It ‘s a bit like the wrapping on a package- you never know what’s really in it until it’s unwrapped. You can shake it around and guess what it might be but hey! How often do you get it right the first time around?
The whole person approach is vital for me. We are body, soul and spirit and our sensory selves hold a lot of information, as does our body. Our mind is clever – or it thinks it is! In developing stories and understandings about how things are. They are good masks to cover up the stuff that lies below- the treasure. We work together to look at what is going on not only in our thinking but our doing, our bodily responses, our senses, our gut feelings. Patterns hold lots of information as does our history. So together we put a magnifying glass on the lot!
And of course it’s good if there’s a dose of fun in it. Humour is a miracle worker. It diffuses the pain when it visits us and helps to integrate the discoveries.
So… Perhaps an example might help to understand how it works?
A new client, let’s call her Georgie, comes to see me. She’s in her early thirties and she tells me that she has just finished her relationship with her partner and the father of her second child. She says that she cannot understand how she managed to choose another mean man. She is worried about the impact on her children of the separation. She says that the children- aged 6 and 4 -are out of control. She doesn’t understand what’s wrong with them and feels that she has tried everything. They don’t listen to her and won’t let her out of their sight. She feels suffocated. Leaving them at school and child care is a nightmare, they cling like leeches.
Georgie also tells me that she’s scared about letting another man into her life. She’s only young and tells me that she doesn’t like being on her own either.
I am listening to her intently, noticing her anxiety and that she is breathing in the top part of her chest. I ask her where her children are today whilst she is meeting with me. She tells me that they are with her mother. Her mother understands how it is; Georgie was raised by a single Mum, too. She remembers her parents fighting.
I ask Georgie to tell me some more about her history- about her parents’ separation and subsequent relationships with each of them.
I ask about her first partner, the father of her first child. How long were they together? What was he like in the relationship? How old was her 6 year -old when he left? And then when she re -partnered?
I ask about her life before children: did she work? And if so, in what field?
Did she seek counselling after the first separation? What was valuable about that experience? Did she use what she had learnt then now?
I observe her as she responds to my questions, noting hesitation, eye contact, willingness to respond, etc.
I ask about the children: what is it that she finds the most challenging about their behaviour? How are they once they are at school and child care? Do the teachers report any distress?
I enquire about sleeping, eating, routines.
I provide Georgie with some factual information – or at least research, about what children typically do following parental separation. Georgie’s family circumstances are unique to her although family breakdown, unfortunately, is not uncommon and there is information about the fall out resulting from it. It can help to know that you are not alone, and there are strategies that you can implement.
I want Georgie to know that I am interested in her life
I also want to know whether the children are difficult in other situations or whether it is only when they are with Georgie?
I let Georgie know that it is her choice what we focus on- I want her to know that she is in control about this. I am not the expert; she knows her children better than I ever could. I tell her that we will be working on this together.
And I look for strengths. A client comes for support and with the desire to make sense of their world. I believe it is vital also to affirm their strength in taking a step to come through that door to Counselling. It takes courage. Change is not always easy- rarely easy. It feels better when you choose it rather than it forcing you to choose, but it’s hard work. Generally clients have experienced things that have taken them to hard places and they have survived and I also affirm them for that. I look for other strengths and for what it is that holds them in life. I also acknowledge Georgie’s strength in leaving another relationship that has not supported her and her children. It is not an easy thing to do, even though the relationship was not supportive or good for them it is familiar and change is hard when you are feeling low and your self- esteem has been battered.
I look also for Georgie’s support network. Is she well connected? Or isolated from her community?
I invite her to choose symbols from the shelf to place in the sand tray- symbols that represent her family members and those close to her. The symbols are little figurines, e.g. a princess, a frog, trees, rocks, cars, gemstones.
Moving to the sand tray shifts the energy from the intensity of telling her story. It also offers another way of seeing things. Georgie might choose symbols that make no sense to her at the time but after time meaning arrives.
We might also do some drawing… don’t feel threatened by this. I am no artist but colour, lines, patterns are also means of expression and can start the ball rolling for more insight and understanding. Stick figures are good!
I am exploring and discovering more about Georgie and her life- the different aspects of who she is and where we might go next. I want to understand what is important to her, her beliefs and values.
This is a beginning.
It’s a quick snapshot of the process and of course it is different with each and every person who walks through my door to embark on this thing called counselling. It’s a beginning and a step into a different way of looking at things. I cannot do it for you but will walk alongside you in your doing, witnessing and acknowledging, supporting as best I can and checking in with you to make sure all is ok.
I hope that this provides you with sufficient information to consider stepping through the door and exploring where you are at…. If you would like to talk some about your own situation please call me or drop me a line.