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Counselors as Clients

If you are a therapy client, kudos to you for attending to yourself. This work is exhausting. I was going to write, “can be exhausting”, but we all know this work is exhausting. The caring and attentiveness we demonstrate with clients, supervisees, and students takes energy. Accessing our empathy does too. Counseling is work. Every semester, as a counselor educator, I often notice the moments when graduate students or supervisees realize just how much effort, study, practice, and focus it takes to do this work. The look is one of shock and fear.

A few years ago, you may have read or heard about Skovholt’s work, stating that counselors can buffer the effects of compassion fatigue and burnout by reducing the number of their one-way caring relationships. The concept was even discussed in a newsletter by a past ACA president. Honestly, this idea of one-way caring relationships has remained in my thoughts since I first read about it. And isn’t it the truth that our professional lives are spent in helping roles? Sometimes, our personal lives are also dominated by relationships where we are carrying most of the weight. Personally, some of us are caring for children and parents. Also, we may find that in our social circles, the relationships feel one-sided. I bet you will agree that being a therapy client provides a nice change-up from our usual and sometimes constant attending to others.

Every now and again (like now), I realize that I would benefit from being a therapy client. Sometimes, I follow up on that idea. But, please do not think that I do not first cycle through a list of reasons not to do so. I am relieved to be seeing a counselor again. She is good. She has a deep understanding of the type of concern for which I requested help. Moreover, her attending skills are strong and she is skilled at eliciting important pieces of context. Early in our process, I felt I should make a request of my counselor that she please not overestimate my insight about my concerns due to my being a counselor. She seemed to chuckle as she said, “no problem”. She seemed to grasp what I was talking about and easily allowed me to be a client. Wow, to have someone who is so tuned-in to helping me move towards what I need.

Let’s guard against the number of one-way caring relationships we have.

Post-script: A tremendous amount of work is going into our 60th Annual Conference in Myrtle Beach (February 21-23, 2024). Last year’s conference was full of successes and the board members and I look forward to seeing you in February!

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1 Comment

Theresa Allen
Theresa Allen
Aug 30, 2023

Thanks, Guy! This is such a great reminder for counselors to actively engage in self-care. I have shared this blog with my students.

Theresa Allen

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