Entering the second year of my counseling program, I immediately felt the shift of focus from myself to the client. Going to the Southwestern Counseling Center for Practicum concretizes this transition. The Center sits in a small shopping mall surrounded by fun businesses such as the cycling shop, an Ayurvedic café and a paleteria (Mexican ice cream shop). The Center itself is a maze of uniquely decorated rooms including specially equipped rooms for art therapy and sandtray. There seems to be one or two special rooms for each of us beginning to see clients.
Half-way through the first quarter of Practicum, I have seen four different clients. One of my initial clients dropped out after our first session, and it was easy for me to blame myself. Fortunately, my classmates and supervisor did not buy into this story. Erratic clients simply are a fact of counseling; perhaps even more so at a community, student-training facility. Initiation into our profession simply would not be complete without this experience of clients not showing up for appointments or dropping out all together.
Thankfully, three of my clients have signed on for self-exploration and come regularly. I witness what they want to share of their lives. I strive to create a safe container for them to delve deeply into their inner worlds. At times, I am in awe of their insights and, at other times, I am struck dumb by their total lack of awareness. The hundreds of times I sat on the other side of the room from my own therapists makes this process feel familiar. I ponder how many times my therapists have been at a loss for words or felt frustrated by my stubbornness. This is part of the process, I remind myself.
Self-care becomes all the more imperative during this time of learning to sit with clients. As I face my client, I try to empty myself of doubt, fear and judgment so I allow my client to have an experience of my unconditional presence. I rarely achieve this state but I am able to quiet my nervous system and inner chatter enough to be focused and truly in the room.
Meeting with my classmates and supervisor twice weekly ameliorates my experience of self-doubt and assures me that I am on the right path. We share segments of one of our sessions weekly. This allows for us to share our fears, hopes and triumphs, give one another supportive and valuable critique, and to learn from our supervisor’s years of experience.
Practicum is safe transport to the other side of the therapeutic relationship initiating me into my new profession. Gratefully, I welcome this journey.