As a mental health counselor, there is a lot going on inside my head. In other words, the lights are on, and someone is always home.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though (we love moments of self-compassion!). Being thoughtful and analyzing the situations around me helped me through grueling graduate classes, it helps me source additional resources for clients, and it helps me keep my paperwork orderly.
That being said, it’s exhausting to have your mind constantly running a mile a minute. The fatigue is not only evident in my physical body, relationships, and work quality- but it is apparent to my clients. Being too wrapped up in my own head can leave the client feeling unheard, or worse, unimportant. And now we have me, trying my best to hear my client and them, trying their best to be heard - and neither feel like we are succeeding. What a pickle!
How do we undo this process?
How can we as therapists be present for our clients while also remembering each of our ethical duties and obligations and all the notes we made for ourselves to bring up in this session, the list goes on and on.
The answer lies in a simple word… mindfulness.
Luckily for you, I’m not going to suggest you sit in silence while only focusing on your breathing for 10 minutes every day as your “easy” fix to ending ruminating thoughts. I am going to suggest what may seem obvious, but we are all too quick to forget: attuning to ourselves first with inquiry so that curiosity can translate to our clients.
What the hell do I mean by that?
Well, I mean approaching ourselves with a gentle, non-judgmental curiosity. What do I notice about this moment? Am I experiencing any physical sensations? Thoughts? Feelings? This is a moment we have an opportunity to check our own assumptions and judgments. Do we feel we should be doing something differently or with more passion?
Are you showing yourself the genuine interest, with kindness and compassion, that you want to show your clients?
Because I’m here to tell you, we can’t offer that to anyone unless we are capable of first providing curiosity to ourselves. The process of attuning is a process of noticing, and not an opportunity to attempt and judge ourselves out of a state, or to “fix” any perceived problems. It’s an opportunity to check-in, be heard, and ground. With this foundation, counseling sessions are more able to be a place of openness, safety, and thus healing.
So, my fellow curious counselors, go forward and make sure to extend that loving, noticing eye, beyond our clients for once, and give yourself the attention and presence you deserve. Your clients will thank you.