It Is Always Helpful to Reflect … Lesson #14 for A New School Counsellor

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Lessons 1-13 are here.

I have been very fortunate to work with and supervise great school counsellors. They teach me and I teach them. One tool that never gets old is the ability to reflect and Marc shares a few of his reflections on my blog. I know that he will have his own blog someday soon as he finishes up his Counselling degree. Listen as this new school counsellor reflects on his practice.

End of Semester Reflection

At this point in the semester, I am impressed at how much learning I have done and how much I have grown as a professional since the beginning of September. I would not have believed it if someone had told me before this semester how many situations and clients I would have worked with and survived. I am impressed with my ability to self-care, and how I am able to regulate my emotional responses. I have experienced anxiety and stress, but I am coping, as I am able to collaborate with my supervisor, reflect with classmates, and engage in my own healing activities. I actually feel less like an imposter and more like I belong in the profession.

However, despite my progress, I’m still aware of how far I have to go. I am still working on developing a conceptual map with each client, determining which theoretical models to add to my toolbox, and what actions I should take in given situations. More than anything, I still have work to do developing the instincts and comfort level required of experienced counsellors. I still make mistakes, and I am still very self-critical. I’ve hesitated, misjudged situations, and lost track of sessions. I still need to work on using my time with clients efficiently and purposefully. I’m optimistic – I’m working on improving, and have faith in my ability to grow. As long as I keep reflecting and pushing myself as a professional, I should improve.

Dual Relationships

This week’s focus on ethics drew attention to some interesting issues at my practicum site.

First, there are the concerns created by the dual roles school counsellors often are given. In schools, counsellors are often given teaching assignments, supervision duties, extracurricular commitments and administrative roles. In some cases, these dual roles can be performed without issue, even adding a positive dimension to the counsellor persona. However, despite this, counsellors still must guard against potential boundary issues, negative impacts upon therapeutic relationships, and confidentiality concerns. At my placement, my role as teacher advisor creates a dual relationship for any student in my ‘TA’ who wants to see me as a counsellor. I must be careful about the nature of my dual relationships with students and be mindful of it in the future.

Second, there are general confidentiality concerns present in schools. Teachers, administrators and parents often want information from counsellors that was given in confidence by students. Apart from cases of abuse or imminent harm, we are bound by our code of ethics to honour the privacy of our clients. That said confidentiality must be balanced by the need to protect our underage clients and by the rights of parents to be informed. This week has been a great start to discussion and reflection for the semester!

Self- Care

Self-care is a topic that all counsellors should have no difficulty reflecting upon, even as it may be easy to overlook. We all are guilty of behaviour that sacrifices our own well-being in favour of client needs, workplace demands, other life commitments, or general poor habits. A novice counsellor like myself is especially vulnerable. I am full of energy, keen to try new ideas, eager to meet the demands of my clients and workplace, and determined to measure up to my ambitious standards. Not only do I lack the experience to determine if my expectations and pace are plausible, but I haven’t had the experience to fully understand as a counsellor how to balance my life and take care of myself. Reminding us of the importance of self-care at this point of our practicum is well timed.

I need to improve my self-care in two different theatres – at work and away from work. At work, I need to take more breaks, leave my office, and connect with more staff. I need to rein in my ambitions and learn to reinforce boundaries and curtail expectations. I need to develop conceptual plans and reflect upon my practice to improve my delivery. I don’t feel overwhelmed at work, but the stress can add up. At home, I need to establish more regular self-care habits. I need to exercise more often and spend more time with friends and family. I enjoy spending time with my daughter, wife and dog, but I could reconnect with friends and family outside my home. I have been putting off certain tasks until I have completed my masters program, buy I need to rediscover hobbies and interests that I enjoy. Further, as illustrated by the ‘I need’ statements throughout, I need to temper my expectations of myself and celebrate my progress and accomplishments.

Hopefully, my career as a counsellor will be a long one. More than anything, I need to be patient.

I love that Marc is so reflective. We discuss his thoughts and concerns and each of us leaves learning something new.

This is a Self- care Haiku Deck that I created this week. In case your having a bad day I suggest you watch this video.

 

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