To be or not to be: That is the question!
It is my belief that it is essential to be connected to the client. However, as a counselor we are constantly trained to be neutral and to be unbiased when seeing clients. Contradictory! Right? In some cases it can be. However, I believe that it takes a certain level of passion and empathy to remain connected to your client. There are times that we will not be able to relate to our clients. However, it is important that as counselors we place ourselves into the shoes of the client to try to explore their problems from their vantage point.
Currently, I am counseling substance abuse patients and they already feel a divide between those individuals that have done drugs and ones that have not done drugs. I was actually just recently attacked by a client in my practicum because he claimed that I did not know anything about the streets and anything about addictions. In that instance, I could see how he saw a sense of self-righteousness in me. However, this is a trait that I work so hard to avoid. In order to do that, I continuously speak to the clients and let them know that any day we could be trading places. I think this is the key to making sure that you stay connected to the client. It is always possible for you to become the client and the client to become the counselor. Therefore, staying connected to my inner client is valuable and it keeps me humble in the profession and always checking myself to insure that I am not looking down on a client or forgetting that I could be the person being counseled are both essential tactics that I have figured out to help me as I begin to explore the counseling world.
We are the same!
I believe that there are a number of factors that we as human beings have in common. These factors include struggles, trials, tribulations, emotions, families, identities, etc. Therefore, I think that knowing these things keeps me leveled with my clients and helps me to avoid the “us” versus “them” mentality. For example, when working with substance abuse clients, I often say to them that everyone is addicted to something. When appropriate, I share my struggles with my addiction with them to let them know that we are similar and that we both may be struggling with some form of addiction. However, I don’t pretend that my addiction is as severe or as difficult as that of a substance abuse user. However, I believe it is a powerful tool to help the client feel at ease and to avoid being judgmental. I believe that no matter our struggles, we are all the same and have something to relate to!