Eight years ago in my Masters Program I read a book that spoke about Counsellor Centered Therapy. In the margins of the book, I made a note “This is ridiculous and so arrogant. What about Carl Rogers and client centered therapy every one in counselling community talks about?” I finished the book because it was assigned reading, but I did not understand or liked the messages in it and we did not spend much time discussing this idea in class. Today I am reconsidering the idea of being a Counsellor Centered Therapist. Very radical! I know. And its petrifying to to admit, but today I am daring greatly and following Brene Brown's wisdom, "Don't shrink. Don't puff. Just stand your sacred ground."
Take a look at bios of a few therapists and you will find that the majority of these bios mention client or person centered approach to counselling. Client centered therapy is a flavor of today's therapy and counselling world. Given this predominant way of approaching healing, throughout my program I was taught to focus on the client, to enter the client’s world and help client make psychological adjustments to the world and resolve incongruences between reality and client’s perceptions. I will say (wit a lot of humbleness) that I am very good at being empathetic and I effortlessly enter client's world completely. I have been praised for this skills by supervisors and peers. But with more and more experience I found that when I entered client’s world completely and forgot about my own center, leaving my power, my experiences, my gifts and strength outside of the counselling relationship I got stuck with the client in their world of pain and misery and although client felt understood and genuinely cared for, we both sat in a muck of depression, anxiety, and grief unable to move to a more stable ground.
Today I see myself as a much more helpful therapist because over the past 5 years I spent a lot of time taking a very close look at myself and devoted time and effirt into becoming more cognizant of my own healing process, my own gifts and power, as well as the responsibility in the use of this power. I realized that I bring this self into my office every single day. This self is present every single moment of my sessions with people who come to heal. And it’s that self, not the tools that I use, that is integral in people’s healing.
Over the past nine months I have been a part of the integrative wellness center where I work in collaboration with Shiatsu Therapist, Hypnotherapist, Massage Therapists, Acupuncturists, Nutritionists and Naturopaths helping people heal physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. And I have learned so much from each one of these therapists. I saw that they pay equal respect to the needs of the client and their own intuition and the tools they use. Their treatments focus on clients, but the therapists do not leave integral parts of themselves outside of their treatment rooms, they bring their selves in, offering client their healing presence. I see these professionals offering their clients a center from which they guide a treatment process. And I am revisiting the idea of Therapist Centered Therapy (Counsellor Centered Therapy) where the therapist is centered and offers a stable, quiet center from which a client can gain strength, reclaim their power, and find the healing within.
More thought on this to come.
I must confess that I NO LONGER SEE DEPRESSED PEOPLE. I quit!
Every time I used to see a “depressed person” in my counselling office I get stuck. Depressed people often see themselves as a problem and their loved ones often see them as a problem. And the goal of therapy is to fix the problem, to get rid of it, right? Well, no wonder so many depressed people have suicidal thoughts. If you are the problem, the only way to get rid of the problem, is to get rid of you. This is where I, as a therapist, got really confused. So I thought about it for a long while and now I am admitting to the world that I am a therapist with years of training and practical experience and I don’t really know how to work with depressed people! But I am not quitting my profession just yet, because I do work with people who STRUGGLE WITH DEPRESSION. People who struggle with depression have a problem. This problem is depression. And the way people cope with depression (ie., drinking, drugs, isolation) brings a lot of pain into their lives. But the good thing is that when I view depression as a problem that comes in to people's lives and robs them of joy, then a range of possibilities becomes available to help person find new ways of coping with this dark force.
So, as a therapist when I see clients STRUGGLING WITH DEPRESSION (not depressed clients), I am much more equipped to help them find new ways of coping with depression and re-inviting joy, peace, and balance into their lives. This is why in my private practice I NO LONGER SEE DEPRESSED PEOPLE but I DO SEE PEOPLE WHO STRUGGLE WITH DEPRESSION and this perspective makes me a more effective therapist!
Katya Sivak, BA, MA
Registered Clinical Counsellor