Posts Tagged ‘Jane Doe’

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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