It’s been a while. I’ve been pondering on whether I should keep blogging, on why I wanted to do it in the first place. Off-loading? Therapy? Narcissism? Wanting to let others know it’s OK to not have life sussed?
One of the first ‘rules’ I learnt in my training as a counsellor was not to self-disclose. But then my early training focused primarily on psychodynamic theory and practice, whereby I would remain a blank screen onto which clients could project their deepest feelings – their hopes and fears, desires and anger, pain and sadness. Then together we would bring their emotional world to life, they would experience different outcomes and heal childhood wounds.
But as soon as I started practising in the real world, with genuine clients not classmates in a fish bowl, it felt so very different. I felt so very different.
I soon discovered that I have a naturally humanistic style as a counsellor. In this approach to therapy one of the three core conditions expected of a therapist is congruence (the others being empathy and unconditional positive regard). These conditions show that we accept our clients just as they are, valuing them as worthy human beings, no matter the story they bring.
Being congruent means being genuine and real, enabling clients to build a trusting relationship with me as a fellow human, not a stony-faced psychoanalyst. Being congruent also helps me challenge negative attitudes or feelings of low self-worth. By being warm and genuine I hope my clients will start to feel valued, and learn to trust their own judgements rather than those imposed on them by others.
And therein lies my dilemma. It just didn’t feel right to be a blank screen. How can I be genuine, warm and present with my clients if I’m holding back, if I don’t let them experience the real me? I don’t mean sharing personal information or making it about me – that would be unethical and wrong. However, if someone is going through a painful divorce, I’m comfortable sharing the fact that I too have survived divorce with the aim of them feeling better understood knowing that I have been through the same experience. That makes me real, someone clients can relate to. In a previous blog I shared my thoughts on addiction and how experiencing close relationships with addicts had impacted on me. That blog received the most number of comments – all of them positive – people related to my honesty.
Ultimately, I believe that I blog to let others know that no-one ever has life totally worked out, we’re all works in progress. And that’s ok. Through counselling and psychotherapy, we can understand our thoughts, feelings and behaviours and learn new ways of relating to ourselves and others. We can learn to accept and let go, learn to love ourselves and make choices that are right for us, rather than trying to please others. We can heal childhood wounds and stop repeating patterns that make us unhappy.
So I guess I will continue to share my thoughts, in the hope that someone somewhere can relate to my words and know that they have the power to change.