The Self of the Counsellor
2 Feb 2019

There is an energetic presence in the room when a counsellor has ‘come home’ to herself to a sufficient degree. I have felt it in some of my counsellors/supervisors, but not in others. Some are so busy with a tool box to be present. Noses down, they rummage noisily within, rattling and clanging spanners and hammers, busily deciding what goes where. Which tool is best? And how many tools do I need?

And there are times when I, too, am guilty of hiding from the client in this way. That grieves me, and I work to find my self again, and be present to all that is in the room.

Somehow a counsellor whose self is there and there barely- (not barely there, but rather, visible and fully available) – is doing medicine with her presence. That is all. Sometimes a scalpel will cut cleanly, at other times soothing lotions and potions will be applied. But oh, with so much wonder, so much quiet reverence and –even-laughter. But not as a distraction. Smooth, deep authenticity and vulnerability. With a love, an acceptance and deep, deep compassion.

This counsellor knows pain so well that it can be her guide and friend when working with others’ pain. How did this self in the counsellor come about? By being the wounded frightened one, and finding solace. By being the pain-ridden lost one and then finding herself again. By knowing pain so intimately that she can walk amongst other wounds and not be overwhelmed or afraid.

There is a skill, too, in learning how much of this presence a client wants, needs, or can tolerate. I am still learning this. We need to follow and then deepen what the client brings. Take the time to ask just a bit more, be curious and compassionate with the delicate buds of experience that are being brought to the room.

How I wish I could do this consistently, and I wish this for my supervisees and colleagues too. But we have no hope of doing this if we have not come home to ourselves to some degree. This is the beginning and the end, the foundation and the technique. Sure, models and theories undergird and inform how we work, but never substitute for what Alan Schore calls right brain to right brain connection. (It’s in all his books, but especially in The Science of the Art of Psychotherapy.)

This intuitive, implicit, unconscious, non-verbal way of working is only possible when the counsellor has a sense of who she is and how she works. When she knows her vulnerabilities. When she trusts the process, rather than tools and techniques.