I was struggling this past week to get into a blog topic because I was stuck in my own head. I finally decided that maybe it would be best if I wrote about what was going on for me. Last week was a rough week. Everyone has tough days, weeks, months (hopefully not years) at the office. Same goes for therapists. At least for this therapist.
Don’t get me wrong; I absolutely love my job. As cheesy as it sounds, it is an honor to be able to hear and validate someone’s story. Usually I find that I am pretty good at leaving work at work and am able to enjoy my free time. This is not to say that some sessions or clients don’t linger with me. I think it is an important part of practice to reflect on client interactions and look at my actions and what I could do differently. When I have a tough day I try to make sure I’m practicing healthy self-care strategies and I usually find that I am ready to go the following day. It was a strange week last week that everyday seemed to present tough sessions.
What makes a tough day for me at work, will definitely not be the same for another counsellor. So far, it is not really specific issues or discussions that drain me, but it is more about the client’s emotional response. I am definitely used to tears in the office and encourage it. What I mean by this is sometimes the way a client shows emotion is so raw and vulnerable it feels like it can swallow me up. It takes a lot of energy to stay grounded and be empathetic while also being therapeutic.
It also takes a lot of effort and energy if I have a client who is not particularly talkative. A client might not be talkative for several reasons including; they might not feel comfortable expressing themselves, they might not have the skills to do so, or they might be looking for me to provide the answers. I had a supervisor say to me that I can’t work harder than my clients and I have to remind myself of this when I start to feel like I’m pulling out all my tricks.
Finally, there are some clients who are in really tough situations and I will sometimes leave session feeling like our session was not helpful. Here I have to make sure I give myself a kick in the pants and have that open and honest conversation with my client to make sure they are getting something out of our sessions. After all this is about them.
Combine some variation of the above three situations over five days and I was more than ready for the weekend. The weekend was a good opportunity to distress and work on letting the week go so I could start fresh this week. I know there will be more tough days and weeks, but hopefully with experience and practice I will get better at handling them. I am constantly learning and growing from my work and know I will always be a work in progress.