Reflections of a 21st Century Counsellor
Updated: 6 days ago
As we move into a year of opportunity, in which bitcoin seems unlikely to pay dividends for any but a fortunate few - sharing this post, hopes to do so, for more.
Below are my 2017 reflections as a counsellor and coach in the digital world of sensory overload, we now inhabit. Its written in the spirit of community to share insights through the connection of digital platforms, hoping to balance the dissociative effects that over-exposure to tech appears to be having on people’s lives - at least if my clients are any benchmark.
NB: While my clients varied in gender, nationality, ethnicity and social and economic backgrounds, the following points were consistent with those under 40 presenting symptoms of emotional disconnection, stress, anxiety, and/or depression.
1. They left almost zero quality (device free) time, day to day, to pause and reflect meaningfully on life’s highs and lows. 95% of time left after work, sleep, shopping, or socialising, was spent on a digital device (inc much of the time they considered as socialising).
2. They were embarrassed/ashamed they’d hit a wall emotionally and needed to ask for help. Having broad connections socially online was quoted as magnifying the sense of failure - as if multiple online relationships should have saved them from the emotional shutdown, relational problems, or inertia they found themselves in.
3. They all had a positive reference point to the restorative and connective power of talking therapies/coaching, be it historically, through friends, family or colleagues. Despite this, none chose to seek help proactively, even when encountering warning signs or behavioral changes that felt unnatural to them.
4. The number 1 reason for the inaction above was feeling unable to justify the expenditure either financially or socially. Until they hit a crisis, at which point any justification was displaced by necessity. Confusion over what approach/kind of help/where to look for natural support with their symptoms, came a close second (but that’s for Februarys post).
5. Once engaged in the therapeutic process and able to express themselves openly, over 60% experienced a significant reduction or elimination of their symptoms within the first 8 x 50 minute sessions and 85% within 12.
6. Almost all agreed (with hindsight) that delaying the decision to get help was both naive and unfounded, when measured against a) their renewed sense of self, and b) their outdated pre-conception of what a therapeutic process could be (most had a cliched view of a lengthy directive analytic process with an all-knowing practitioner).
This is a huge shame, as my experience shows that kind of approach to be a minor part of the modern therapeutic landscape. My belief is the therapeutic success my client's experience is very much shared. My approach is humanistically grounded and focused on providing the best environment (a warm, trusted, open and empathic one) for people to express themselves wholeheartedly. From there, reflecting and utilising different integrative techniques and theory during sessions can be helpful. Mostly though, it's about holding the space to allow them to be their wholeselves, unconditionally. Experience has shown me, people know themselves best, and given time, space, and support, the change and growth will flow naturally from them.
So to some considerations, as 2018 kicks off if you find life getting on top.
Connection externally matters - Online relationships can be life-enriching, IF they are balanced, objective, challenging and supportive. It's a big IF though, anything less will take more than it gives, so try not to use them as substitutes for offline relationships. Better to make time to re-engage with those that matter to you. Start sharing your joy and pain with them now - not just the retouched anecdote or pic of your day. You know who they are, connect with them and make time to talk meaningfully - be honest, be open, be brave. My guess is they'll be chuffed you did and want to reciprocate.
Connection internally matters - linking head (mind and thoughts) to heart (body and feelings) is how we are able to exist physically. Keeping the emotional channel between head and heart unblocked, flowing and connected is critical to overall well-being - open, honest, supportive dialogue with another person is the best way to do so. If you feel overwhelmed and sharing your stuff with family, friends or colleagues isn’t doable for whatever reason, then use the positive power of tech to find a counsellor, coach or therapist that fits your need. Connect with one meaningfully (you'll know) and yep, that doesn't always happen first time (March's post), be patient and persevere though, because when you do - trust me - it works.
Self-investment pays the best interest - Budget spent on eating, drinking, gambling or shopping trips to solve your troubles has scant evidence of long-term success and is likely to cost far more over a lifetime than a therapeutic relationship with the right professional. Take the road less traveled and try putting your emotional wellbeing in front in 2018 if life isn't making sense. For many emotional bumps and losses, the chance to emote and make sense of things objectively over a few sessions may be all it takes to reconnect with yourself.
Happy New Year all, I hope your 2018 is a connected one. Nathan.