The Five Keys to my Counseling Approach
1. In the beginning the focus will be on getting to know you, your story, and why you've come to see me. I may do a structured interview where I ask you about yourself, your life circumstances, and what problems you're currently facing. I try to use open ended questions, and emphasize learning about the context of your life. What I mean by that is where do you live, who do you live with, how do you identify yourself - race, gender, sexual preference, interests, birth order - whatever is important to you.
2. As we get to know each other we will turn our discussion to hearing more about the specific problem that has brought you to consultation. We will spend some time defining the problem and understanding how it affects your life and identity. These conversations will hopefully feel like a conversation with a friend who is a really good listener - that is my job after all. I work to make you feel heard and understood while I also try to gently offer ways that we can move the conversation towards finding a resolution. Once it seems I've got a good idea of who you are and what problem has brought you to consultation we will spend time setting a goal for our work together. The getting to you know and goal setting portion of counseling could be 1-3 sessions.
3. It is my job to hold the space for you. This means helping you share intimate details about your life and emotions while feeling safe. There is a level of openness that is necessary for any conseling to be effective, but I understand that it's hard to talk about the difficulties in our life when we are used to ignoring them to get through our days. You can expect me to meet your intimacy with compassion, sensitivity, and gentle encouragement. You can also trust me to move the conversation to a different direction if things are feeling too intense, stuck, or sometimes not deep enough. While your story is the focus of our sessions you can think of me as a co-author who helps keep the focus of the narrative to what we both agree is most important.
4. Boundaries are important. It is my job to maintain healthy boundaries in our relationship. While our sessions may feel like a conversation with a good friend (or maybe something totally different) it's important for us both to remember we're actually in a business relationship. This means that our relationship exists within the context of our counseling sessions. I do my part in maintaining this boundary by protecting your privacy. What you tell me in our sessions is absolutely confidential (with a few exceptions for your safety or the safety of others) and if I run into you in the community I'll let you decide if you want to acknowledge that we know each other. While I care deeply about my clients our relationship is different than a friendship and my clients benefit from this - after all I'm not looking for you to listen to my troubles - our time together is strictly focused on you.
5. We measure progress based on the goals we set. We will spend time agreeing on what the outcome of our time together will be. I will help you identify an achievable and measurable goal. It may be hard to know how long it will take to achieve this goal; we'll revisit it as we go along to make sure we're on course and identify any new goals or subgoals that may have emerged in our time together. You can let me know what's working and not, and I'll probably invite you to give some feedback after each session so I can track how I'm doing and whether you're feeling any improvement in your situation.
Outline of a typical session:
Keeping in mind the five points I discuss to the left, here's what you could expect in a typical hour long consultation session.
We will have a brief check in to catch up on what's been going on in your life since our last meeting. I may offer a centering exercise to transition to our work and focus our time. We will check in on anything that came up last session that should be continued or feels unfinished. If there was any "homework" we will discuss how this went for you. As the session moves along we will focus more on the problem we're working on and talk about how it's affecting your life and how you are doing with overcoming this problem. I may ask lots of questions to understand what's going on for you or I may listen quietly. As our time winds down I will try to summarize what we've talked about and hear your perspective. We may agree on some homework for you to do before our next session (e.g. go for a walk 3 times in the next week), and I may have you fill out a brief survey on how you think the session went. We'll schedule another appointment and say our goodbyes for the week.