Archive for September 16th, 2008

Countertransference, much?

September 16, 2008

Receiving gifts from clients is an interesting thing. There are some therapists who just wouldn’t do it, some who probably unconsciously encourage it – and then there’s the rest of us. As a counsellor, I do not ever expect to receive any gift aside from that of the other person’s presence. Sitting beside someone as they confront themselves and their life is a deep honour. I know that sounds corny, but sometimes after sessions I’ve sat quietly in my chair, just feeling. I think there is a quality of awe that comes with witnessing – really seeing – other people.

This morning I received a little blue envelope covered in hand drawn hearts. On the inside was what my manager described as ‘a work of art,’ and she was right. Careful joined up writing from a child, more hearts, glued on buttons, rice, sequins. A thank you letter.

This child thanked me for my help – and I thought, But I haven’t even started yet! This is really a reminder that my idea of help is probably very different from other people’s. With this child, I’ve just been a friendly presence, a warm grown-up who isn’t threatening, judging, or telling them what to do. This makes me feel powerful in the sense that I can believe in myself.

Operation Fingerpaint, as I said yesterday, is quite a directive service. We tend to go into sessions with definite plans of how the sessions will go. This just isn’t me – and when I’m on my own with children, it’s easier to just trust them and myself and believe that whatever is supposed to happen, will. I also think that the quality of the relationship between two people, whatever their ages, is what makes the difference. I know from my own experience in therapy that it’s not the great insights Kleinette offered that I remember now, it’s the little acts of human kindness.

My heart feels full from this little letter, this little painting. And particularly when I think of the child who painstakingly made it – what a fantastic job. If more people occasionally received treats like this, job/personal satisfaction would be a lot higher, I tell you!

It’s nice to know that when I am just being me, with someone else who is just being them, that all kinds of good things can happen.

I am reminded of the person who painted me the picture of ‘us’ – it feels like ages since we worked together. I’ve thought about that client a lot this week, for one reason and another, and it’s interesting that these thoughts have been floating around as art is used more heavily in my sessions with this child. I have never conceived of myself as a good drawer, painter, sculptor – and therefore have sometimes felt wary of using art with clients. With the adult who painted me a picture, it felt natural. With this child, it feels natural.

So much of counselling is me learning to be okay with being myself, and more okay I am with me, the more okay the people/children I work with seem to be okay with being who they are.

I love this quote from e. e. cummings – ‘It takes courage to grow up and be who you really are.’ I’d take that a step further and say it takes courage to wake up every morning and be who you are, even when you don’t get it quite right. Life is bumpy and textured and sometimes we get lost.

But sometimes…sometimes we find ourselves, and that’s everything.

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