WORKING CREATIVELY WITH YOUR COUNSELLOR-FRIEND OR FOE?
In this blog I’d like to explain to you what I mean by working creatively in the counselling room. You might have heard some counsellors saying that they work creatively. I am one of those counsellors; however I’d like to re-insure you that I never ever force my clients to work the way that suits me. Creative work is an organic process, it can be very subtle and clients might be working creatively without even realising. I will always offer an idea of an experiment first. If I see my client feeling uncomfortable being asked to do something I’ll check it out. I want to see what my client feels about the idea first. Does he/she feels comfortable enough to continue? What feels uncomfortable? And if he/she says no, than we simply won’t continue.
Let me tell you something about myself first before I embark on the blog journey of de-buckling the stigma about creative work. I have studied Humanistic counselling – and yes, to those who are not part of the counselling world this probably doesn’t mean anything. Anyway, hear me out. The modalities I studied were Person Centred, Gestalt Therapies together with Existential Philosophy. I will never forget the day we started on Gestalt. Immediately, I felt connected to this modality. For me, the concepts within it were very visual – I am a visual learner – I found it easy to understand and I absolutely loved the creative aspects that this modality includes. And….wait for it….I would never ever label myself as creative before!
So, there. You don’t have to be creative in order to work creatively with your counsellor!
When we, in the counselling world talk about creativity, yes, we do mean getting your hands dirty sometimes but not always. You don’t have to paint, stick and glue bits and bobs onto the paper all the time. Part of creative work can be using sand trays, working with the empty chair or writing letters. This work is often very powerful without getting your hands dirty at all. Also work with stones, sea shells, Russian Dolls just to list few.
But the bit I’d like to focus on today is working creatively using language!
And finally, three paragraphs in and I have mentioned what I wanted to talk to you about all along. When I tell my clients I like working creatively, I also mean using language. Let me give you an example of my work: I worked with a client who experienced childhood trauma. Throughout her childhood she was exposed to constant criticism. Whatever she has done in life was never good enough. Her achievements were never recognised and her father in particular always seemed to have focused on what hasn’t gone well. In our work together we managed to identify a hurting younger part of self (her inner child) that is always striving for perfection and sense of control in adulthood. Gently, I encouraged my client to have a dialogue between her adult self and the hurting child self. To listen to her inner child and to identify what she might need. My client described her inner child as broken, damaged and lost. So we continued our work together identifying helpful strategies that would help her inner child to heal and thrive.
This is creative work. Using analogies, metaphors, personifications or whatever helps the client to describe how they feel. I am a firm believer that clients are their own experts. I am the navigator in our work together. Skilfully, I’ll ask questions that help them to unlock their fears, identify their anxieties, their depression. It allows them to shine a light on their suffering. It somehow starts to make more sense. And this is what creates the healing process. Identifying and working with. Of course all the work doesn’t happen in one session. We sometimes pick up where we left off, if that’s what the client wants or return to it another time. The beauty of therapeutic work is, that it happens regularly, there is no pressure to get things done fast. Sometimes, we have to slow down to be able to see clearer and work more efficiently.
Let me give you one more example. This one is form my work with a client who suffered with anxiety. We’ve been working together for about 6 weeks now. Me, getting to know my client, my client starting to trust me now a bit more, feeling comfortable to disclose more about herself. I asked my client to tell me how her anxiety feels. We talked about particular scenario. She described her anxiety as a huge monster, constantly standing over her, overshadowing everything she does, almost even making decisions for her, not letting her be herself. So, we started by me asking my client to describe to me this monster. Its features, size, colour, what it does, what it says. Because my client described the monster as huge, I was wondering if there is anything that impacts its size. Anything at all. My client then identified this tiny light – her courage- that is there at times too. She knew it was there, but because it was so tiny, it was almost always overshadowed by the monster. She said that the monster stays huge, but the light has the ability to get bigger. And so, we worked with that image. We talked about the instances when the monster is unbearable, too domineering and about instances when the light gets big and shines! As we were progressing with our work, I suggested to my client whether she would like to draw an image of that monster. I felt confident that having the image drawn out would allow my client to perhaps change the scary factor of the monster or manipulate the image the way she liked. However, my client wasn’t convinced. She felt unsure whether she’d captures the image properly, so we didn’t do it. So, here is an example of client not wanting to continue expanding our creative work further and that’s ok. There is no right or wrong when working creatively. Together, we just have to give it a shot. You as a client either like it or not. You either feel comfortable with certain aspects or you don’t.
I am really hoping that by reading these two examples you feel a bit more relaxed about creative work. Hopefully, it feels less scary, less daunting and more exciting.
Do not hesitate to drop me an email or enquire over the phone if you’d like to know more information about my work. I’d be more than happy to answer all of your questions about creativity or about my work as a counsellor in general.
Thanks for reading.
Disclaimer: Even though the names of my clients are not mentioned in this article, I have asked for their permission to include examples of our work in this blog.