It’s the end of Week 3 of being a counselor, and my internal gas gauge is on “E,” with the “low fuel” light on. Usually, I am awake before my alarm goes off, but this morning, it woke me up, and I was none too happy to hear it. The marathon of classes, clinic and work continues.
My caseload is full now: I have six clients. It’s a lot to keep track of and a lot to think about. Each one presents different counseling challenges since each is in a difference place in his/her life. However, I am finding it easier to remember details about their lives than I thought it would be, and making connections between comments in previous sessions to what they are presenting when we are together is coming easily as well. I was concerned about the challenges of not having my own office and the “shuffle” that goes on between sessions that prevents me from taking a minute to settle and focus before greeting my client. The situation is far from ideal, but it isn’t as bad as I thought it might be.
We are still tripping over each other in the clinic, jockeying for time on the computers, and juggling appointment time availability, but the overall atmosphere of the clinic is somewhat calmer than it was at the beginning. Many of us have commented that the current set-up of the clinic is not therapeutic in nature, but we have what we have, and from what I hear from students who have attended other universities, we have it pretty good. It is certainly not for a lack of trying on the part of the department—we just have outgrown our space. Plans are in the works for a new clinic, but I will be long graduated by the time that becomes a reality.
Being taped and watching myself on tape has not been as traumatic as I feared either. We were told that we would quickly forget that the tape is rolling during our sessions, and for the most part, that’s true. I’m aware in the back of my mind that it’s on, but I’m not freaking out that every word I’m saying is being recorded. Playing back the tapes doesn’t send shivers down my spine, and I haven’t buried my head in my hands in shame while watching any of them yet. As I explained to my clients when doing the consent form, these tapes can’t be broadcast on YouTube, and that’s a comforting thought.
Two of my clients this week spontaneously gave positive feedback about their time with me, and spoke of how they (and others in their lives) are already noticing changes in themselves because of counseling. I, myself, had felt that we had established rapport easily and had done some good work in the few sessions we had had, but that’s an optimistic neophyte talking; it means so much more when a client who was basically required to come to counseling shares the same feeling. And to have two clients give positive feedback? Wow!
After a particularly productive session with a client this week, I was writing up the case notes, and wanted to capture for my supervisor many of the things my client said that I felt were particularly important. The case notes were full of direct quotes my client spoke. The next morning though, I felt regret for the amount of detail I went into in the notes. I realized the responsibility that comes with putting notes into a client’s file, which we keep for seven years beyond termination of counseling, like any counseling service that operates under ACA ethical codes. Obviously, everything I put into a client’s file is read by my supervisor, but the bigger picture is that a court of law could someday read them as well. While I know the chances are slim, I have to be mindful that there is always a possibility. On one hand, documenting direct quotes can be very helpful when a client has expressed suicidal or homicidal ideation; on the other hand, if a client is “just talking,” it’s in the best interest of the client that I just note pertinent ideas expressed, not word-for-word quotes. I’m glad I figured that out early, before it potentially became an issue.
In the next two weeks, I will have four of my six clients terminating counseling, as they will have completed the requirements for the project they are doing that brought them to counseling in the first place. (The remaining two clients have expressed interest in continuing counseling with me beyond their requirement. Probably not surprisingly, they are also the two who offered me praise earlier in the week.) My hope for the four who will be leaving counseling is that they have learned something new about themselves and feel that their four hours with me was more than just something they had to do to get class credit.
That’s really all we can ask for as therapists, isn’t it?