Counseling sessions can follow a fairly standard format.
But I begin inside of my own head. I need to prepare myself to listen to my client, and I need to remind myself of our last session, and get ready to offer encouragement and hope.
So the session begins in my head. I need to deal with my own anxiety,and if I am feeling a bit anxious as we begin, I consider that to be a good sign, that I am "psyched up", and then I need to get focused, and relaxed.
HeartMath is good tool for relaxation, and reminds me to work from my heart intelligence which is affiliative and cooperative.
I ask myself quickly about homework, was there any, remind myself of themes from past sessions, make decisions about when to ask for payment, or address payment issues, and open the door to my office, ready to cordially greet my client.
I invite my client into my office and ask them to be seated, and where they choose to sit can be telling.
I listen carefully for the first words my client says, because that, or some adaptation of it, may be the issue of the day.
Or I may begin by asking a question from the Solution Oriented model, "What has changed since your last session?"
Now the listening and teaching begin. Listening skills are very important at this juncture.
My client may have a big concern for the day, or may have a laundry list of issues, but usually certain themes emerge routinely.
Those themes will involve listening skills on my part and the ability to teach on the move while maintaining the memory of the main topic which began the session.
Teaching may involve talking about different counseling models, and how they relate to thinking or feelings or behavior, including in session behavior, or spiritual growth, for example. I like to recommend resources, including workshops, blogs, websites, and books. My clients are curious usually, and relieved, I think, to know that there are many ideas about and people who have dealt with or think about the situation they find themselves in.
Time management is important. I want to be aware of both linear time and emotional time, which might be quite different. Emotional time may need a little more clock time.
Perhaps the most difficult part of this process for me is to sense how intense and long lasting an emotional, particularly grief, experience will be, so that it is appropriately expressed, but does not violate time boundaries, for example, if I have another client waiting.
For example, men expressing grief needs to be honored because men, generally speaking, do not get as much permission to express vulnerable emotions, and when men touch that pain, which Robert Bly calls the way to a man's soul, I want them to be successful at feeling the pain, relieved that it is not going to overwhelm them, and feel the relief at the end of a grief experience. However, if that happens right at the end of a session, I need to steel myself to remember that this client's needs are now, and to set myself to work with the client in the waiting room when that moment comes.
At the end of the session, I want to be able to summarize where we have been, reiterate homework, offer encouragement and hope, and ask about rescheduling.
Then I want to do a case note right away. If I have another client waiting, perhaps I will review and commit to memory this session so I can go to another session.
I prefer to do case notes as quickly as possible, because the details and themes are still in working memory, and can be called forth quickly.
I want to keep sacred that time and energy my client has given to me by taking good notes, which does not mean word for word, but does mean using code words, or key words, that will bring back the memory.
Then I will repeat the internal process for my next client, preparing to honor their journey.
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