What is Counseling?

Hello Friends,

Recently I was reading some interactions on Facebook. It occurred to me that folks might have different understandings about what Counseling is. So, I thought it time to share what Counseling is to me.

When I think of Counseling, what comes to mind is a state of active and deep listening. There is a presence of attention for the client. The filter that is turned on is always for the client. Let me tell you what even these concepts mean to me.

  1. “A state of active and deep listening:” There are no distractions. First, what is listening? I see listening as an ability to tune in to what the other is expressing. The most obvious listening is auditory. What you hear is what the person is trying to communicate. In my daily work with clients, what this means is part of what they are overtly stating is the surface of meaning. So, listening to me is multi-layered. I look for signs of meaning that enhance the auditory expression of word choice. The word active means there are multiple layers of listening and I am participating in all of them. I use the metaphor of an octupus with a catcher’s facemask (my boundaries) and mitts on all arms. The arms are kind of floating in the air ready to catch this piece of meaning, hold it until the timing is right, and gently toss it back when needed. I am tuning in to many facets of content, some cognitive, some developmental, some somatic, some linking to other sessions and ideas and experiences the client has shared previously.
  2. “Presence of attention:” There are no distractions that divert my attention from the co-created experience together. This is what some trainers call “the field.” This is the energetic space that we both accept and create. What is happening for the client is all that matters in that moment. I am careful to set up my attention so I have water next to me for sipping, quiet in my environment, nothing urgent to attend to, and my needs are already taken care of.
  3. “The filter that is turned on is always for the client:” Sometimes I get some intuitive information that may not be for the client. If it won’t go away, or if I get that same information three times, I think it might be for the client. In this case, I ask the client if they want to hear something that I just thought of. When they say yes and I share the information, it usually lands deeply and is helpful for the client to understand herself. Sometimes with my women clients they want to relate to me. Yesterday, we were talking about hair styling techniques. This was still about the client as she was relating to me, my experience, an interest in feeling a kinship. This time it was around the topic of hair.

I do want to speak a bit about what Counseling is not. I do not ascribe to the concept of advice. I know that is in the dictionary for the term counseling. And, there are legal, financial, even credit counselors who may need to give advice.

My clients may have questions for me. They may need help interpreting a relationship, a career move, decisions in their life. But, my gift to them is always my active, deep, and attuned listening.

I do like to say if you want to know what to do listen to the John Tesh radio show. Most people are inundated with information. When they come to me, they are looking for a safe, skilled, attuned relationship. A trained professional who has the experience, knowledge, and background to listen well.

They are looking to “feel felt.” To experience themselves in a deep way that is deeply reflective of who they are. In this space, the healing happens naturally. What they have been carrying that is not them will organically float away. What is left is their True Self. The wonder of who they really are.

And, this, we celebrate together.



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