Posts Tagged ‘counselling’

ROLE-PLAY. I’ve never been a fan of role-plays. While I absolutely understand the importance they hold for learning and practicing skills, I cannot bring myself to feel comfortable doing them. It might be the ‘acting’ part of it. Regardless of my feelings about role-plays, I am going to use this opportunity to reflect on the session we did in class.

When I took on the role of the counsellor, I had no idea what type of client to expect. The peer whom I was working with, T, indicated she had read her client profile and was ready to begin. We started the session, to which I introduced myself, briefly reviewed the time limits and confidentiality with her, and then asked how she was that day. As the session progressed, the facts and responses that T was passing along to me were really confusing me as to what the situation was. On the one hand, T was saying that she had a current boyfriend whom she was having troubles with, because he was reminding her of her ex-husband. When she continued to go back and forth in discussing these two men in her life, I asked her if she would like to focus on her ex, or on her current boyfriend. She replied neither, but that her current situation had to do with her current boyfriend. So I inquired into her situation, and discovered she was a 52-year old woman living in a shelter who had been arrested for assaulting her boyfriend. I wanted to make sure T felt supported, and so I asked she would like an advocate to support her through the court process. T also expressed feelings of worthlessness and not having many friends, but that she enjoyed baking, and so we briefly discussed how she might use baking as a means to make friends (particularly with the other women in the shelter) and as a means of self-care. During the session I had forgotten about time-keeping, and therefore wrapped the session up quicker than I had wanted.

Overall I was quite happy with how I handled the role-play activity. One thing I noticed, was how utterly lost I felt throughout the session. I think I felt that the client was feeding me all this information, but I did not know exactly what she wanted from me, which was throwing me off. While I am no stranger to women calling the crisis line just to talk (ie: give a run-down of their day), in this role-play session I felt as though I should be discovering some ground-breaking revelation of what the client needed. But I should have just focussed more on what she was telling me, as I think I would have felt more calm and grounded had I done this.

In terms of the feedback I received from my peers, they all indicated that I did well. They noted that I had a calming tone to my voice, that I conveyed openness, made good eye-contact with the client, and was able to build comfort. My peers also commented on my attention to detail, as well as the analysis of the client’s situation from a feminist, intersectional, anti-oppression framework. What I need to work on is remembering to check the time, to avoid saying ‘umm’ and ‘like’, and to check in with the client’s feelings more (as I was confirming factual information more than asking about T’s feelings).

I’d like to take this feedback and use it for the next role-play counselling session. Also, I have been transferred into the counselling program at my placement (very exciting) and therefore I will be gaining more practice in one-on-one counselling which will be beneficial (and scary!).

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I was very happy that today’s class focussed on revisiting counselling skills from first year, as well as elaborating on those skills and terminologies. What I want to focus on in this journal entry is the need for counsellors to be self-reflective in their work and practice. In class we talked about women in crisis and crisis intervention. Margaret then posed a question for the class: she asked us to think about how we, as counsellors, have managed in our field thus far. What emotions do we feel equipped to handle from our clients? What issues can we openly and non-judgmentally discuss? Do we harbour any biases or judgments? Do certain issues make us uncomfortable? So I began to contemplate my position on these questions.

During my time on the crisis line, I have encountered many different kinds of women, each of whom expresses themselves and handles stress and crisis differently. I have spoken to and/or provided support to women who are very open about their feelings and thoughts, to women who are so angry and frustrated they do nothing but yell/scream/cry into the telephone, to women who are completely silent on the line, to male crank callers, etc. From my conversations, there are a few things I have learned about myself, what I can deal with, and what I struggle with as a counsellor. I feel comfortable (maybe not the right word) speaking with clients who are angry, who are yelling, who are crying, or who are very open about their feelings/lives. I also have developed my skills at setting boundaries and limitations with male crank callers, which was something I initially felt very uncomfortable with. What I struggle with (ie: sometimes I find myself not knowing how to respond) is speaking with clients who are in a deep sense of despair or who engage in self-harm behaviours as a coping mechanism.

I interpret despair as hopelessness, as the complete loss of hope. It is an emotion that has the power to send people into crisis and can feel as though it is all-consuming. I find it difficult to know what to say to a client who is in a state of despair, because all I want to say is “Don’t worry, everything will be alright”. But I cannot say this – I don’t have any authority over her life, nor do I know if things will be alright. I know that I should offer support through reflecting on her strengths and referring her to resources in the community, but most of the time this doesn’t seem like enough.

While I do not harbour any judgments on self-harm as a coping mechanism, there is something about it that I find difficult to discuss. Particularly, I have struggled to respond to clients who discuss their cutting behaviour. I understand that cutting provides relief of emotional/psychological/physical pain by substituting it for an intense focus on the physical. It can provide the individual with a sense of control when perhaps they feel none. What is interesting however, is that the calls I have taken in which suicide was discussed, I felt more able to handle that discussion than a conversation with a client about cutting. This is something I would like to investigate further in my own self-reflection.

This week in Mandy’s class, in Working With Women Experiencing Sexual Violence, we watched the film The Many Trials of One Jane Doe. The story of Jane Do really got me reflecting on the social systems that we as citizens trust and rely on for our safety, protection and well-being. If in our most vulnerable states, we have to depend on systems that are racist, sexist, classist (etc), how can we expect proper maintenance of our rights and proper care of our safety, health and security? This is why we are going through this training and learning in the AWCCA program –> because our clients will be women/men/youth/children who will be struggling against systems that are oppressing them, and as counsellors we need to be aware of this.

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