Victory through Counseling
Everybody needs counseling... This is not a judgment about the nature of our mental illness, it is the value of our personal experiences and stories; it is the truth about our need to be heard and supported. We all need a safe place in which we can be honest and let our defenses down, we also need trustworthy people in our lives from whom we can receive advice. This is counsel, and many of us have gone years, if not our entire life, without experiencing it.
As children, this safety sets the stage for the possibility of growing into productive and self-fulfilled adults. It's not too late to find some!
Why formal counseling is not just meeting for coffee...
nor talking with your family or spouse, or a prayer meeting, or checking in with your doctor, etc.
Even if we pride ourselves in our ability to be honest and authentic in our conversations, there is an aspect of feeling safe that cannot be found in a public place. This safety is provided in a small office space, with comfortable chairs and lighting, and a closed door.
- Time 1 hour -- It is important that the counseling session has a definite start and finish, set by mutual agreement and adhered to religiously (typically 1 hour). This is so important, because an entire life’s experience cannot be seen in one sitting, no matter how long. When we define a session as exactly 1 hour, it releases the unspoken expectation to fix everything. In 1 hour, only one aspect of a Life can be focused on, allowing bite-sized pieces with small accomplishments. Focusing in on one thing avoids the common depressive downward spiral of being bombarded by all of the negative memories from every area of you Life. This focus is an important skill needed to wade through the uncertain chaos of our world. In every meeting something substantial is finished, never to need addressed (from the same perspective) again. This is turning a page in a book culminating in a life of wholeness.
Counseling is not a hierarchical, better than, know it all relationship. It is, however, a non-reciprocal relationship. It is not a peer-level give and take relationship. This is because it is next to impossible to talk through your own deep issues while maintaining responsibility for the listener. In order to deal with internal issues, it is necessary to get in touch with the feelings from those experiences, which requires (for that moment) feeling the feelings of the scared five year old. A five year old cannot bear the burden of responsibility for the well being of the counselor. Most of us assume care-giving responsibility for others as a coping mechanism to protect us from our own unprocessed experiences of not being cared for. In order to process these aspects, we must first disable the defense mechanism, and this is through the client-counselor agreement or non-reciprocal therapy.
Assignments are integral to the small bite – small victory process. Every session the assignment is to find something that can be finished that day in that sitting. This adds to the peace and confidence of the client seeing their issues as conquerable, one bite at a time. Longer term assignments, like writing letters, journaling, making contact with estranged relationships, etc., bring a sense of continuity and longer term direction to the counseling process.
If the meeting is Tuesdays from 5:00-6:00, the meeting itself establishes structure in the clients Life. If initially they are not ready to begin at 5:00, they will quickly learn that the session will not go late to accommodate their lack of preparation. Also, when the bell rings at 6:00, there is a value placed on whatever was accomplished, that it is important and finished.
Weekly -- It is important to meet on a scheduled day, at a specific time. Most of us can use some more skills in discipline, deadlines, and productivity. Even one scheduled day a week can give a sense of continuity and structure to all the other days.
6 meetings -- Formal counseling is not an ongoing process for the rest of your life. It is important to agree how many sessions will make up this season of meetings. At the end of that established timeframe there is a reevaluation as to the effectiveness of the counseling. Either the counseling relationship can be terminated (finished, graduated), or another term of meetings can be agreed upon, or there can be referrals to a more appropriate counselor or setting.
Without being deliberate about 'Formal Counseling' does not make healing and growth impossible, it merely makes the hard task of inner healing that much harder. There is value in most of our social interactions, but we already have those. What most of us still lack is the inner peace and wholeness that comes with deliberate and systematically processing our experiences and their attached feelings.
November 11, 2008
Is God Efficient?
Is God efficient? Is God concerned with getting the
most Bang for His Buck? Can we even evaluate His
best, from our viewpoint? If I can discover a ‘best’ way to do things, God
should be able to do so even better...