The healing power of setting foot in a counselor's office...it's a thing.
A client and I were recently wondering, is there a name for this? I don't recall learning about it in school, or reading research about it. I don't recall a textbook definition of one word that sums it up.
"Just by coming here today, I feel a relief."
Then, it happened again. Another client says to me after several weeks of appointments and lots of emotional work, that the most powerful part of counseling was the decision to come and keep coming back. Then a few weeks later, again, I hear the sentiment in an initial session with a new client. "Just by coming here today, I feel a relief." In these statements, I hear that to have sought out help, made the call or sent the email, set up the appointment, and stepped foot in the door...these actions alone make a difference.
I like metaphors. They are helpful in giving us new perspectives on old material. So for instance, we may have an idea of what counseling is about. We may have an idea that it's for people who are broken. Or that it's for people in crisis. Or that it's for people who are severely mentally ill. Or that it's an absolute last resort when nothing else works. These associations are powerful. That's our old material at work.
But what if we create new material here? What if we think about counseling as a sunrise, a dawning of a new day? Let's imagine the last time we couldn't sleep at night...how frustrating it is not getting the sleep we want, worrying about what will happen the next day if we don't sleep. Then we imagine ourselves putting our insomnia to work for us. Maybe we walk to the kitchen and make a cup of tea and sit with ourselves and reflect. Maybe we take a hot bath to calm our nerves. Maybe we massage our hands or temples to create ease. All of these steps are actions that make a difference in our insomnia. We greet a new morning, perhaps not with a great night's sleep, but with a sense that we cared for ourselves through the process.
Likewise, the steps toward seeking out counseling are actions of self-care. They are messages to ourselves that we are worth it, that a new day can dawn, and that we can connect to another human being even in the midst of pain. Pain has a purpose in this way. It can bring us closer to others, to what we seek, and to our true nature.
Carl Rogers believed, and research has shown, that the power of the therapeutic relationship is what creates change through counseling. The connection to another human being is the substance of change and hope. The permission one grants themselves in arranging the words of their story and sharing them with another person with the intent to make change...this is the mechanism by which counseling works. This is the way that new perspectives, new beginnings, and new sunrises are born.
So my responsibility as a counselor is to continually invite these moments to occur in the lives of others. And to meet each person and each story with unconditional positive regard, empathy, and honesty. The dawning of a new day is a brilliant display to witness.
Kambria Kennedy-Dominguez, Counselor and yoga teacher specializing in mental health, substance abuse and wellness.