When I was working on a placement as a trainee counsellor, I once felt very alarmed by a client’s story and its impact on me.
The client had related a series of events which correlated directly to a recent personal experience of mine, and as a relatively new counsellor, I struggled in that session to maintain my focus on the client and not my own stuff. Being there for the client was beyond difficult.
So how much is it ok to acknowledge that in a session?
In that particular example, I acknowledged none of it explicitly with the client, and it took up several sessions of supervision to work it all through. That included referring the client to someone else.
It takes a lot of practice and experience to allow the process of the moment to evolve and trust your own instincts. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
A couple of years ago, one of my clients was relating her feelings on her mother’s recent death from cancer. It was sudden and emotional.
My mother died of cancer – quickly, suddenly, and although it was over 30 years ago, I still connected with that process of events.
At that moment in session, it felt like our two experiences were intermingled – my client’s experience of her mother’s death, and subsequent sense of grief, and also my own experience of my mother’s death and my own loss and grief, as well as my empathy for the client. For a brief moment we shared the tears. Being there for the client was personally demanding.
I shared that I had had a similar experience and that the emotions of that experience are strong, long-lasting and very personal. .
I returned the focus to my client’s experience, but not without making a mental note to refer to it in supervision.
My client continued to explore her experience and find some closure on her own process in therapy.
I found my own closure in supervision on that particular experience with that particular client.
Be there for the client and for yourself.
Being congruent is about being aware of your own process as well as the client’s process.
Above all, it’s about knowing yourself, and trusting the process.
And Being There.