Counselors will use a variety of techniques derived from a variety of theories to work with any given individual. I would like to take a moment and tell you a bit about one of mine. I know that when a client comes through my door, it is important that I do at least three things. First, I mentally prepare myself for the new client. I take a moment to have a few deep breaths and I visualize all of my personal issues being waved out the door until later as I need to be present for the person that will come through that door. Next, as I greet my client, I want them to feel comfortable and welcome in my office, so I offer them a cup of water or coffee. I also joke and ask them if they had any questions as they read through the mountain of paperwork that they are bombarded with when they decide to make an appointment.
More often than not, this will be a person’s first visit to counseling, so I want to be sure that I explain to them my philosophy about counseling without throwing around a bunch of theoretical jargon. What I tell them is that as I visualize how human brains work, and I compare it to a file cabinet. I believe that all persons’ experiences in life, good or bad, small or big, make up the person, and all that information is stored in the file cabinet (brain). Some people are able to take the time to process and organize thoughts and feelings regarding each of these experiences, and do a nice job of keeping the file cabinet tidy. Many people, however, may not do such a great job with this. Perhaps an experience is too painful, sorrowful, bittersweet, or just taken for granted. Sometimes time does not permit, and experiences are tossed into the cabinet drawers without regard for how they are thrown in. If this happens, often the file cabinet drawer becomes too full too fast. Then things get crowded, messy, and things start to spill out. This is when a person may begin to experience that feeling of being overwhelmed, depressed, or anxious. This is the point where I usually enter the picture.
To me, counseling is that process that helps the person pull out the files in the cabinet, put all the pieces together, organize the experiences, and make sense of them. It is at that point that the person can begin to store away all of those experiences again. Some are discussed at length, while others are simply acknowledged and relished for a moment. I believe a person gains a perspective during this process that it is possible has never been seen before. This is how I define an “ah-ha” moment. This is my favorite moment. The light-bulb moment. When this process is complete, what the person finds is that not only have their files stopped spilling all over the place, but that they have a significant amount of room still available to them. More room in that cabinet for filling it with life and love, with hope and sorrow.
At the end of that process I simply remind the person of the work done, and let them know that my door is always open should they find that they need me again. It is my hope that at the end of any counseling relationship, the person leaving my office feels more empowered, and knows how to file away their experiences in a more healthy way.
Micah P. Hatchett, Ph.D., LPC, NCC
Clinical Director & Counselor
Northshore Counseling and Wellness