Great description of empathy


Learning Review – Week 7

Learning Review – Week 7

During this week’s session we swapped things around slightly and did our skills practice first. I felt this worked well as people seemed to have more energy and responded well. I was happy with my skills practice.
From the point of view of the observer I noted that the helper practiced her contract well. The BACP Framework was mentioned along with the usual confidentiality clauses. It is getting easier to notice certain skills and the lack of them which makes for good feedback. This is giving me confidence that I’m grasping the basics and varied skills used throughout a session.

The main part of our session this week was the film clip we watched where a common family situation was played out. We meet Mary, who is a mother of a teenage son; Shaun; still living at home. We hear music playing loudly from out of the room and Mary is clearly agitated by this as she is making a cup of tea and just wants a quiet moment before work. Shaun arrives in the kitchen and appears to be ignoring his mother’s requests to turn it down. Mary is exasperated by this and seems to be at her wits end. I would imagine this is frustrating for her as she feels she is entitled to some quiet time in her home before a busy day at work. There’s also the aspect that her son is ignoring her and disrespecting her.
When Mary is walking to work in the next scene we see her looking at the local playground and reflecting on when Shaun was a child and they were happier, easier times. This tells me that she doesn’t dislike her son and longs for some form of bond with him again like when he was a child. She appears to be blaming herself for the situation and saying “I don’t know where I went wrong”. This could imply that she has or hasn’t done something’s that she feels she should or shouldn’t have done. It could also just as easily be that she hasn’t done anything wrong but it’s just the way her son is growing up.
In the next scene we see Shaun talking to a friend (who is less than interested and on his phone) and saying that he feels his mum is nagging at him all the time. If Shaun genuinely feels he hasn’t done anything wrong and that his mum is just venting all her anger at him with him being the only one in the house, I would ask him if he has sat down with her to discuss his concerns. Maybe this could be seen as fixing or offering a solution – time will tell when my skills develop.

We next see Mary going to meet with somebody at work who is able to offer some time to listen. Confidentiality is discussed and a time boundaries are set. Mary explains that she is very annoyed with her son and that she endures the same thing every day. She wants her cup of tea in peace and she feels the music is intrusive. He is using supplies such as milk and then complains when there isn’t any left. Again there must be frustration and despair on Mary’s part as she is working to provide and she is at the end of her tether.
The counsellor notes that Mary seems agitated and asks what she wants from the session.
Mary wants Shaun to change – his ways and outlook to life I’d imagine – she is at the end of her tether and had enough. Shaun left college and refused to go on.
The counsellor then reflected and said Mary was fed up.
Mary explains that the situation is now affecting work and all she wants to do is a days work.
The counsellor paraphrases that Although things are bad at home she just wants to be able to concentrate at work and then be able to cope at home.
Mary responds by saying she feels powerless which is reflected back by the counsellor and added that it seems Mary wants to move away from the situation.
Mary doesn’t feel she can move away and remembers when they used to get on and smiles when remarking he was a lovely kid.
The counsellor offers an empathic understanding that it feels painful and sad for Mary.
Mary then states Shaun cannot stay at home all day and something has to change. His behaviour and the noise appears to be really getting to Mary and agitating her.
She wants to meet halfway and maybe come to some arrangement or compromise with Shaun.
When the counsellor asks how does it feel when they cant meet halfway Mary replies she feels trapped with no idea what to do. She likened it to having a crying baby and not knowing how to stop it. She isn’t handling the stress very well and whenever they walk into a room together they just argue straight away. This must feel like they are stuck in a rut and going round in circles as there is no communication between them and things won’t be getting resolved. Mary’s hands are together at this point and seem anxious. She remarks that they are living in 2 different worlds.
When the session starts to come to a closure Mary begins to say how she wants to find a way to connect with Shaun so he feels like her son again and not an enemy. Now they row as soon as they get together and both need to resist the arguments. She acknowledges that she has been on his case which is a good starting point for her to be able to begin establishing a channel of communication which is what she wants.
Mary also adds though that Shaun needs to start doing what grown-ups do and look at his education which is a way for Mary to establish a boundary with Shaun should they begin to act amicably.
Mary’s distress was then reflected by the counsellor and the session was summarised by covering her agitation and her feelings of being powerless to change.

My Contract – v1 !

So as any budding counsellor will know; the counselling contract is what sets our boundaries, expresses limits of ability and also sets expectations.  As an exercise we were asked to create a draft of our contract and also produce bullet pointed prompts.  Here is a copy of my contract, I’d really appreciate any feedback from anybody as it’s new to me so pointers would be welcomed.  Please note; this is written as it is supposed to be recited so will read as script.


“Hi, my name is Chris – can I just confirm your name is ****** – is this how you like to be known? Are you comfortable, is everything ok for you?

I’d just like to quickly go over a few things with you. When we embark on a course of counselling we go over what’s called a “contract”. Don’t worry it isn’t as scary as it sounds, we do it to make sure that you are fully aware of what counselling can offer and that it is an appropriate way of us addressing what’s on your mind.

So I’d like to begin by making you aware that I’m not a fully qualified counsellor as of yet but I am working towards the qualification and will be using my listening skills today. I work within the BACP ethical framework – so the British Association of Counselling & Psychotherapy is a professional body that all qualified or training counsellors are accountable to.

All our sessions are held in the strictest of confidence with the exception of you indicating to me that you are putting the safety and wellbeing of yourself or others at risk or if you should mention any involvement with or intention of carrying out any form of terrorist activity. If this is the case I will have to take that outside of the room to my supervisor but you will be notified first.

The sessions are generally 50 mins long and are arranged in 6 week blocks but for today we will be aiming for about 10 mins. Don’t worry about this though as I will be taking care of timekeeping and will give you an idea of when we normally start wrapping things up.

We will be using the “Person Centred Approach” which basically means; today is all about you. You will be leading the session and choosing a topic, I am merely here to listen to you and let you talk about your concerns.

So are you ok with what I’ve discussed – any questions? Ok so over to you – how would you like to begin?”

Week 3 Learning Review

Week 3 got off to a hectic start for me.  I had a flying visit at Slimming World (!) which resulted in everyone wanting to catch up following the Xmas party the previous week – plus I was late so ended up at the back of the queue which put me back quite a bit.

I arrived at Class feeling quite harassed and stressed so got myself together and sat down ready for what the night had to bring.  I have to say the check in and centering was quite a welcome bonus as for 5 mins I got to compose myself which was really refreshing.


We started of by going over the lesson plan which was as follows:

  • Explore Boundaries
  • Confidentiality
  • Contracting
  • Reasearching BACP Ethical Framework
  • Feedback Skills
  • Triad Work

Starting with Boundaries which is something I’ve covered on here previously we did an exercise where we had to speak out about something we have trouble saying “no” to.  The obvious choice here I felt would be work.  I regularly feel frustrated but also at the same time, obliged to accept everything thrown my way.  I think this stems from a need to impress my senior management that my Dad instilled in me from an early [working] age.

He’d always say “keep your head down” and “go the extra mile” as he was in management himself and said these are the things that get you noticed…

I do this when I feel there will be an end result but recently after 3 years of doing so I was taken advantage of at work and ended up with the responsibility of somebody 2 pay bandings higher than me.

Ironically even though I said I’d never do that again for them – I am!  As of 2 weeks back…

So back on track – I didn’t use work; I had the following:

  • College or Slimming World – I’ve had to sacrifice on for another and I’m really struggling at the moment as I’m terrified I’ll gain weight again and return to a very unhappy place.
  • Family commitments – having to turn up to gymnastics every Saturday morning and just sit there waiting for my wife and daughter and then ferry them to dancing.  I feel like I’m taken advantage of and when ever I bring it up my wife says it’s time to spend together as a family.
  • Using my savings – I regularly have to dib into my pots of cash such as the money I save for the cars etc to fund a lifestyle I feel is beyond our means.  I do this as it’s easier than the repercussions of saying no to certain people.

This was discussed primarily because when volunteering in counselling role it is easy to find yourself being taken advantage of.  You need to maintain a manageable workload for safeguarding of the client.  This would also reflect in your limits of ability.  I agree as per my initial work related “no” above – I can relate to this.  Agreeing to everything eventually means one of if not all of the balls you are juggling will be dropped.  This could one day be a clients wellbeing or even your own.  If you let your guard down and inappropriately react to a client this could have a detrimental effect on the counselling relationship.

By continually saying “yes” you find that you are always assuming responsibility and not delegating work to others.  This could be a reflection of a controlling tendency which I feel I am guilty of sometime.  I will say though any controlling from me as a person is done with the best of intentions – or I would like to think so anyway!


We did our first skills practice this time.  I have to say it was nice and easy to get back into the swing of things and I got some really positive feedback in terms of my contract.  I was a little confused about the extra things that were added to the contract this time such as the mention of suspicion of any terrorist activity.  I personally would have thought that the mention of threat to life of self or others would have encompassed this.


I will be typing up my contract which I’ll post up here into the learning material section.

A stark realisation

Sitting in a cafe at a local health centre where I provide IT support, it suddenly dawned on me.  I’m currently at work, I’ve been asked to come here, I’m not skiving so there’s no guilt that I’m shurking my responsibilities.  I’m wearing a nice suit that I’ve only just been able to fit in since losing weight, I’m still in touch with the office if they need me and I’ve got “First Steps in Counselling” in front of me by Pete Sanders.  It dawned on me while sipping a cup of tea and blogging – I’m actually living one of my dreams!

I remember a Chris from years ago dreaming about being suited and booted, doing some form of job, able to chill out now and again and catch up with my work in a relaxed environment.  Well this is it – I’d love to go back and tell him “don’t worry” because one day it will happen – 11th December 2014 when you’re 35 you’ll be chilling out in a nice little cafe while waiting for someone to their bit of work which will then let you do your bit.  No rush – no stress – just enjoy the moment…

Well that’s what I’m doing right now – enjoying this exact moment in time.  I may not be the next time I read this but I’d like this to serve as reminder to me (and you) that not all times are bad.  There are good times but they get clouded sometimes by life other trials and tribulations.

Have an good day people – and remember to be awesome.

Week 2 Learning Review


Week 2 over and done with.  We started on the skills learning today which was reminiscent of the introduction.  Paraphrasing, Reflecting and we briefly touched on Boundaries.  I felt it was nice going into this forearmed with the knowledge I’d gained in the intro as some people looked light rabbits in the proverbial headlights when the key skills were being mentioned.

Our exercise for the night was an informal “Triad”.  Basically we had a conversation.  This entailed the fundamentals of having a conversation such as opening it up, choosing a topic, leading, listening, asking questions.  I felt that this was a way for us to analyse something we do every day without even thinking about it.

Wendy mentioned that we use listening skills every day such as paraphrasing but we don’t tend to have a name for it at the time.  I agree that during normal conversation, the structure does encompass PCA listening skills.  I felt very comfortable during the triad as is was just an informal chat with no pressure to use your skills in an absolute way.  As we knew the intention behind the exercise I felt we were more aware of the purpose and that when certain criteria were hit we were reflecting on this and highlighting things such as “we just paraphrased” or “I just reflected your feelings there”.

There were certainly interesting topics discussed, purely by accident, with Anna in terms of how important body language is especially as she was an English speaking Polish person.  It was also discussed that body language in different countries and cultures can mean something completely different which I feel is important to consider in the Listening Role as sometimes our client may not be conveying the message we are receiving which is why reflection is important for clarification as well as acknowledgement of understanding.

I really need to concentrate on putting time aside at home to do my work more which is worrying me. I’ve left this learning review once again until the next week so things aren’t so fresh in my mind now. I made a point of doing them on a Tuesday morning when I was on the intro so now maybe I really need to start doing them on the Friday after Thursdays Lv2 class.

I must admit I’m not looking forward to the new criteria and the work that will go with it as my academic skills have never been very strong but I feel that it is my own [unfounded] doubt that is stopping me from grabbing this opportunity by the proverbials.

Week 1 Learning Review

So I made it – Introduction is complete and I’ve embarked on Lv2.

We started with a new group but there were 2 familiar faces in the guise of John and Mark.  It was basically the paperwork day.  Some people hadn’t done the intro so I can see us covering alot of the earlier ground again such as contracts, boundaries, openings and endings.

We constructed our group agreement:

  • Non Judgemental
  • Respectful
  • No Descrimination
  • Listening with no interuptions
  • Cooperation
  • Confidentiality
  • Honesty
  • Mobile Phones on silent
  • Attendance
  • Mindfullness.

Our first exercise was to empty the contents of our pockets and draw a conclusion as to the personality of the person from the items.

Johns pockets we minimal – a phone showing his preparedness and £3 for brew money!  Mine contained sweet wrappers – less said..

We moved onto Hopes and Fears which were identical to the intro course.


To Pass

Balance other commitments

Develop listening skills

Fit in

Improve coursework

Kepp up with criteria

Succed and progress


Struggling with coursework.

we had a brief QA on “What is listening” which we defined as Hearing what is being said, paying attention, Taking in what is being said and empathic communication.  “Safe Space” came up in terms of how we can create this for clients – comfort and nice chairs, windows in the room, temparature, noise level, free from distraction were all things that were suggested.  In addition; meeting the client at the door so they don’t have to tell a receptionist why they are there.  Vanilla decor – no personal artifacts.  Privacy to be respected – not able to overhear the conversation.

Providing the user with all the information you can will ease any anxiety, locations, parking and charges etc.  What would we do if they didn’t turn up – is there a safegurding issue with ringing them – maybe a violent or controlling partner will answer.  Check their prefered contact method – will they want refreshments, all things to consider.

We did a brilliant exercise where we were given a maze on a piece of paper and then told without looking we needed to navigate our partner thorugh the maze (drawing a line) by communicating by any means except speech.  We opted for using the points of a compass translated into numbers of taps 1 for North etc.

When we had finished we were asked what we thought the purpose was to which I replied “as we had seen the maze already it would have been different to if we didn’t know the shape.  We knew where we were going we just needed some guidence on how to get there.”

I was pleased to hear that this was on the nose and basically the foundation of counselling

I’m really looking forward to this further journey and can’t wait for week 2.

Introduction finished & Lv2 Enrolled

I handed in my portfolio on monday with all the criteria signed off finally completing my introduction course.  On top of that I had my interview for Lv2 now which I was offered a place on and now enrolled.  I’ve met some truely wonderful people on the course, some of which I will keep in touch with as I would safely call them friends now!

I’m looking forward to the next stage of my journey – it isn’t as daunting now that I’m not a stage one – I can gradually see the end of the road – 4 years away but it’s there!

My Myers-Briggs


Introverted iNtuitive Feeling Judging

INFJ Description

by Marina Margaret Heiss and Joe Butt

comments by Chris Bilsborough

INFJs are distinguished by both their complexity of character and the unusual range and depth of their talents. Strongly humanitarian in outlook, INFJs tend to be idealists, and because of their J preference for closure and completion, they are generally “doers” as well as dreamers. This rare combination of vision and practicality often results in INFJs taking a disproportionate amount of responsibility in the various causes to which so many of them seem to be drawn.

I can totally relate to the comments made here. I am extreamly humanitarian, I hate to see injustice and where I can I will strive to right wrongs. I do seek out closure and completion so I generally take the attitude “If you want a job doing, do it yourself.” I do take on more responsibility than I should sometimes and need to accept that when my job list is full I need to learn to say ‘no’.

INFJs are deeply concerned about their relations with individuals as well as the state of humanity at large. They are, in fact, sometimes mistaken for extroverts because they appear so outgoing and are so genuinely interested in people — a product of the Feeling function they most readily show to the world. On the contrary, INFJs are true introverts, who can only be emotionally intimate and fulfilled with a chosen few from among their long-term friends, family, or obvious “soul mates.”

Wow! I can say here that I am very concerned about my relationships with others. How others view me is very high on my agenda. Not that I will behave in a non-genuine manner to achieve high regard, in fact, high regard isn’t what I require. I want people to see me as genuine and empathic person. I’m not the life and soul of a party nor do I want to be – I wouldn’t want people to think I’m the loud boisterous one. I’m the quite retiring type. Back of the room, corner table of the party and so on.

While instinctively courting the personal and organizational demands continually made upon them by others, at intervals INFJs will suddenly withdraw into themselves, sometimes shutting out even their intimates. This apparent paradox is a necessary escape valve for them, providing both time to rebuild their depleted resources and a filter to prevent the emotional overload to which they are so susceptible as inherent “givers.” As a pattern of behavior, it is perhaps the most confusing aspect of the enigmatic INFJ character to outsiders, and hence the most often misunderstood — particularly by those who have little experience with this rare type.

Absolutely – any requests made to me I will fulfil if I think the requestor is deserving of my time. I can very much so withdraw into myself to the bemusement of my wife who can’t understand why I do this or how I can be “up” one minute and “down” the next. I feel I need to rest and have time to myself to just do “me stuff” and recharge my batteries. Misunderstood – very!

Due in part to the unique perspective produced by this alternation between detachment and involvement in the lives of the people around them, INFJs may well have the clearest insights of all the types into the motivations of others, for good and for evil. The most important contributing factor to this uncanny gift, however, are the empathic abilities often found in Fs, which seem to be especially heightened in the INFJ type (possibly by the dominance of the introverted N function).

I like to think I am a good judge of charcter. I’m often told by people “don’t tell me what I’m thinking” or “You don’t know what I’m thinking” when I often do; “They doth protest too much!”

This empathy can serve as a classic example of the two-edged nature of certain INFJ talents, as it can be strong enough to cause discomfort or pain in negative or stressful situations. More explicit inner conflicts are also not uncommon in INFJs; it is possible to speculate that the causes for some of these may lie in the specific combinations of preferences which define this complex type. For instance, there can sometimes be a “tug-of-war” between NF vision and idealism and the J practicality that urges compromise for the sake of achieving the highest priority goals. And the I and J combination, while perhaps enhancing self-awareness, may make it difficult for INFJs to articulate their deepest and most convoluted feelings.

I will always strive to deliver and sometimes I will beat myself up and can expericene severe emotional conflict and turmoil when striving to come to the best most efficient conclusion. This can sometimes be mistaken for lateness or doing things “on the last minute.”

Usually self-expression comes more easily to INFJs on paper, as they tend to have strong writing skills. Since in addition they often possess a strong personal charisma, INFJs are generally well-suited to the “inspirational” professions such as teaching (especially in higher education) and religious leadership. Psychology and counseling are other obvious choices, but overall, INFJs can be exceptionally difficult to pigeonhole by their career paths. Perhaps the best example of this occurs in the technical fields. Many INFJs perceive themselves at a disadvantage when dealing with the mystique and formality of “hard logic”, and in academic terms this may cause a tendency to gravitate towards the liberal arts rather than the sciences. However, the significant minority of INFJs who do pursue studies and careers in the latter areas tend to be as successful as their T counterparts, as it is *iNtuition* — the dominant function for the INFJ type — which governs the ability to understand abstract theory and implement it creatively.

What can I say. I love writing and expressing myself via this medium. Perfection and articulation are both things I strive for to be as clear and concise in my communication. The mention of counselling being an obvious career path needs little to be said other than another “wow”.

In their own way, INFJs are just as much “systems builders” as are INTJs; the difference lies in that most INFJ “systems” are founded on human beings and human values, rather than information and technology. Their systems may for these reasons be conceptually “blurrier” than analogous NT ones, harder to measure in strict numerical terms, and easier to take for granted — yet it is these same underlying reasons which make the resulting contributions to society so vital and profound.

Beneath the quiet exterior, INFJs hold deep convictions about the weightier matters of life.Those who are activists – INFJs gravitate toward such a role – are there for the cause, not for personal glory or political power.

Again – not striving for power or popularity. I also tend to cheer for the underdog and likethe notion of making a difference and making my time count. Whether in the sense of daily undertakings or in the bigger picture such as making my time on this planet worthwhile.

INFJs are champions of the oppressed and downtrodden.They often are found in the wake of an emergency, rescuing those who are in acute distress.INFJs may fantasize about getting revenge on those who victimize the defenseless.The concept of ‘poetic justice’ is appealing to the INFJ.

Errm – how many “wows” can I use? As I mentioned above I cheer for the underdog, the oppressed and downtrodden. I see a broken down car and ponder stopping, if I see someone in medical distress; even though I am not qualified to do so in a clinical sense; I rush to help. Even if it’s a little old lady that has taken a fall. Revenge and poetic justice. The less said the better other than another “wow”!

“There’s something rotten in Denmark.” Accurately suspicious about others’ motives, INFJs are not easily led.These are the people that you can rarely fool any of the time.Though affable and sympathetic to most, INFJs are selective about their friends. Such a friendship is a symbiotic bond that transcends mere words.

Suspicious to the last drop. The true motives of those in power such as governments, world leaders and military establishments are rarely advertised and paraded by mainstream media flooding their audiences with propaganda. I can see this and never take people at face value. Sometime this can be a downfall of mine – I don’t recognise genuine people and genuine intentions until I’ve studied the person. Sometimes the realisation comes only when it’s too late.

INFJs have a knack for fluency in language and facility in communication. In addition, nonverbal sensitivity enables the INFJ to know and be known by others intimately.

Writing, counseling, public service and even politics are areas where INFJs frequently find their niche.

Again, my love of writing and communication is mentioned. Also the counselling reference.

(INFJ stands for Introvert, iNtuitive, Feeling, Judging and represents individual’s preferences in four dimensions characterising personality type, according to Jung’s and Briggs Myers’ theories of personality type.)

Your Type Preferences

Introvert(44%) iNtuitive(50%) Feeling(38%) Judging(11%)


Functional Analysis Of The INFJ

Based on Jung’s framework of mental functions – by Joe Butt

Introverted iNtuition

Introverted intuitives, INFJs enjoy a greater clarity of perception of inner, unconscious processes than all but their INTJ cousins. Just as SP types commune with the object and “live in the here and now” of the physical world, INFJs readily grasp the hidden psychological stimuli behind the more observable dynamics of behavior and affect. Their amazing ability to deduce the inner workings of the mind, will and emotions of others gives INFJs their reputation as prophets and seers. Unlike the confining, routinizing nature of introverted sensing, introverted intuition frees this type to act insightfully and spontaneously as unique solutions arise on an event by event basis.

I love to analyse people. I know what it is that make people tick and their true intentions. Sometimes I am unable to articulate this (ironically) but in my mind – I know. Dealing with things as they happen and acting spontaneously – even though as I mentioned I don’t feel I am spontaneous.

Extraverted Feeling

Extraverted feeling, the auxiliary deciding function, expresses a range of emotion and opinions of, for and about people. INFJs, like many other FJ types, find themselves caught between the desire to express their wealth of feelings and moral conclusions about the actions and attitudes of others, and the awareness of the consequences of unbridled candor. Some vent the attending emotions in private, to trusted allies. Such confidants are chosen with care, for INFJs are well aware of the treachery that can reside in the hearts of mortals. This particular combination of introverted intuition and extraverted feeling provides INFJs with the raw material from which perceptive counselors are shaped.

Awareness of consequence, opinions of people, expressing feelings of other actions and their consequence. Often correctly. Friends chosen with care and awareness of how evil people can be. Perceptive counsellors – we’ll see in about 4 years time.

Introverted Thinking

The INFJ’s thinking is introverted, turned toward the subject. Perhaps it is when the INFJ’s thinking function is operative that they are most aloof. A comrade might surmise that such detachment signals a disillusionment, that she has also been found lacking by the sardonic eye of this one who plumbs the depths of the human spirit. Experience suggests that such distancing is merely an indication that the seer is hard at work and focusing energy into this less efficient tertiary function.

Extraverted Sensing

INFJs are twice blessed with clarity of vision, both internal and external. Just as they possess inner vision which is drawn to the forms of the unconscious, they also have external sensing perception which readily takes hold of worldly objects. Sensing, however, is the weakest of the INFJ’s arsenal and the most vulnerable. INFJs, like their fellow intuitives, may be so absorbed in intuitive perceiving that they become oblivious to physical reality. The INFJ under stress may fall prey to various forms of immediate gratification. Awareness of extraverted sensing is probably the source of the “SP wannabe” side of INFJs. Many yearn to live spontaneously; it’s not uncommon for INFJ actors to take on an SP (often ESTP) role.

Forms of immediate gratification such as alcohol or pharmaceuticals have all been vices of mine at some point. Normally to excess. I avoid drinking due to the realisation that I use this to escape my want to care and help. I become obnoxious and arrogant and extroverted. In fact I probably let my inner ESTP surface. My yearn to be spontaneous as I mentioned I admire spontaneity.

Famous INFJs

by Joe Butt

Nathan, prophet of Israel
Robert Burns, Scottish poet

  • Martin Van Buren
  • James Earl “Jimmy” Carter

Nathaniel Hawthorne
Fanny Crosby, (blind) hymnist
Mother Teresa of Calcutta
Fred McMurray (My Three Sons)
Shirley Temple Black, child actor, ambassador
Martin Luther King, Jr., civil rights leader, martyr
James Reston, newspaper reporter
Shirley MacLaine (Sweet Charity, …)
Piers Anthony, author (“Xanth” series)
Michael Landon (Little House on the Prairie)
Tom Selleck
John Katz, critic, author
Paul Stookey (Peter, Paul and Mary)
U.S.Senator Carol Moseley-Braun (D-IL)
Billy Crystal
Garry Trudeau (Doonesbury)
Nelson Mandela
Mel Gibson
Carrie Fisher
Nicole Kidman
Jerry Seinfeld
Jamie Foxx
Sela Ward
Mark Harmon
Gary Dourdan
Marg Helgaberger
Evangeline Lilly
Tori May

Endings in Counselling and Life

We experience ‘endings’ every day – more often than we actually realise.  Ending a meal, ending a phone call, ending your day at work or school.  All these endings are anticipated; expected.  We see the last morsals of food on our plate and realise it will soon be finished.  When you are ending a phone call the concentration of conversation turns to summerising, wrapping up.  The end of the school day looms when we see the clock reaching that joyous time.  Same with the working day or when that last piece of work has been finished. With this prepardness these endings don’t come as such a shock, we are ready for them, we’ve planned for it to happen and we know what is coming next; washing up, putting down the reciever or travelling home.

But what happens when we aren’t prepared?  What if your plate was snatched away from you mid-meal?  You’d be wondering what is going on; why has it been taken?  How should you react?  What are you going to do for food now?  We have all experienced an interruption to our working day, whether it be due to an unexpected phone call from school or family member resulting in that feeling of dread in the pit of your stomach and a sudden dash to the car.  Or if you’ve suddenly been taken ill and need to go home and indulge in chicken soup, toast and copious amounts of tea.  The interruption to your routine feels different, you can feel that this isn’t what you are normally doing at that time of day.  It isn’t like when you have a pre-arranged days leave or vacation booked.  But after everything settles down we snap back in to our routine and go about our daily business with little or no consequence.

If you take these reactions and apply them to a major event such as bereavement or dissolvment of a relationship you may find that snapping back into your routine isn’t as easy.  Even when you are prepared for these endings it doesn’t necessarily mean that they will be met with acceptance either.  In some instances of course the ending of a marriage could be welcomed with open arms; tears shed could be tears of relief that a turbulent time has come to an end.  You knew it was going to happen and have prepared yourself for it.  Again the anticipation of a death; say for instance due to a terminal illness diagnosis; can help you plan and prepare but the actual event taking place could result in mixed emotions.  Relief that the deceased is no longer in pain but also mourning their loss at the same time.  These polar opposites in emotional response can trigger many different psychological reactions such as shock (PTSD), numbness, depression, anxiety and so on.  My point here is that there is no hard and fast rule that being prepared is any better/easier than sudden events taking place.

That being said; being prepared can help ease the anticipated event and this is why planning the ending to a counselling relationship is extremely important.  Within the counsellor/client relationship there are several different versions of the ending.  Every session will come to an end so when we initiate a block of therapy we deliver the contract and an initial outline of timescales: 50 Mins a session and blocks of 6 sessions.  Preparing the client for these endings will help them come to terms when the inevitable happens.  After a session ends they will need to go and face the world again so giving them time to compose themselves will make their departure a bit easier than an announcement of “right time’s up – bye.”  so we would mention when the final 10 mins has commenced.  When the fifth session is being wrapped up, a mention that the next session is potentially the last one will set a client up for the end of the relationship – again; not to say it will make it easy but will prepare them.

I am going to put myself out there now which is something I was never prepared to do when I started this blog (no pun intended).  I attended 6 sessions of counselling in 2014 via my workplace Occupational Health department.  I had been suffering with depression and a loss of direction in life.  I’d lost my Grandfather and Dad within 12 months of each other so there were no longer any male role models in my life.  I had two children under the age of five and were very trying.  A house that was costing me a fortune to run.  No holidays.  My friends had apparently all gone their separate ways (which it turns out they hadn’t).  Needless to say I was feeling extremely low and each new day wasn’t bringing me any closer to getting out of the rut I was stuck in.

The counselling was great.  Finally a person who listened to me and didn’t judge.  They let me finish what I had to say and genuinely empathised with me.  I spoke about a lot of things with them and found myself becoming quite close and comfortable around them.  When I was told that session 6 would potentially be the final one we briefly reviewed the previous topics that had been discussed but there was always a chance my employer at the time would agree to further sessions.  I mean; how could someone come to counselling and admit to a massive realisation as I did and then basically be told it won’t be addressed in session 6 and there will be no further sessions.

I’ve come to realise that it wasn’t so much the ending that was the issue but more that I was allowed to dive into such a deep place but wasn’t given enough oxygen to surface again!  When it became apparent that I wasn’t going to have anymore sessions or see the counsellor again I felt emotions akin to those of an intimate relationship ending or even loss and bereavement.  I was confused and angry.  I began pining for the counselling environment and eventually starting feeling hatred towards the counsellor and my employer.  Even more so when an email was sent to my manager stating that the counsellor didn’t feel further sessions were required.

As with most situations like this I began to get over it and the feelings began to subside.  Now I think back to how ‘silly’ my behavior was.

Endings are just as important as beginnings.  They need to be handled appropriately and planned accordingly to ensure they can run as smoothly as possible.  Maybe even offering further contact along the way in the form of a ‘check in’.  Either way the human psyche doesn’t deal well with the irrational – we tend to search for reason behind events that happen and this can be our achilles heel when the answer that is sought remains elusive.

So this is the end of the post – I just thought I’d warn you…  I hope you enjoyed the read and if you want to comment please do so below.

Thanks for reading…