One of the stand out aspects of working with any people of any age is how quick you have to change direction or gears in the way you work. This has to be one of a few jobs where there can be such contrast in such a short period of time of the depth of discussion, type of communication, and emotion that you deal with.
Within a typical day I have started the day with someone expressing concern of a parents behaviour towards a sibling and supporting them through their natural worries and concerns, then I have moved to supporting a student through simple nurture work.
For this child it is hard for them to have fun so we used 100 ballpit balls to have a “ball fight/dodgeball” game. They were hesitant yet soon allowed themselves to enter into a time of fun.
Following this I had a child who was full of rage at themselves and showed themselves to be self harming.
From this sitting with someone who was waiting on a court decision on which parent they were going to be living with.
Finally I was with an adult who was processing life changing experiences that have shaped their whole life.
None of these things are uncommon and this is somewhat of a regular day and in supporting all of these people there are many things that I as a counsellor have to be mindful of. Yet one of the toughest things that you have to deal with is the quick shift from one to the other. I have about 15 minutes between each client (and lunch in the middle somewhere) but this shift is so very important.
I cannot be bringing the emotion of the previous session into the room with the next client. I cannot be seen to be holding the weight on my shoulders for my next client who may then want to protect me from what they are carrying. We must show that we are entirely there for the person in front of us at the time.
Of course this can be what we bring from home too. The worries and concerns I have in my own relationships as a husband, father, friend, have to be left at the door for the day and picked up when I leave.
I know I have mentioned Supervision before and this is so important, not just for counsellors but for anyone supporting the welfare of people. In addition to this we also need to take responsibility for our own wellbeing and this is where I am really bad. Physician heal thyself is something I have historically been bad at and something I am looking to improve on. The less I do of this the harder it is to make the shift in between sessions.
One of the best uses in the 15 minutes between sessions is to write. I know some people who write their notes at the end of the day, I however choose to do it after each session and this is something i do religiously. It helps me process the moment, the emotions and helps me consider what i need to do going forward. Not simply for the client I’ve just seen but for the next one i am about to see. In doing this I can effectively wipe the slate clean in that moment. I can also make note of things i need to read up, question and plan as well as considering what i may need to take to supervision.
So do give yourself space to consider all these things. It is so important that you start with every person, young or old, ready as if they were the first person you had seen that day.