It might sound strange, coming from a (trainee) therapist to say that counsellors should know their triggers. More than that, it’s about knowing you can deal with them.
Like many people assigned female, I have a past that involves trauma. As a part of that experience I now have an odd trigger phrase. I am lucky in that it rarely gets said, but it is a fairly standard saying. It also *never* gets a content warning for (maybe I’ll discuss those another time). But because it’s rare, I’ve never really been confronted with it and just always assumed that it would be inconsequential. I hear it about twice a year, maybe and generally in situations where it’s ok to freeze momentarily and then deal with it.
Now, I have a fairly new client, and he is a client who has said this phrase to me three weeks in a row. Let’s just say, I’m somewhat more acclimatised to it now than I was a month ago! Luckily for me, I have never been someone who has reacted very visibly externally, and so even the first time I was able to catch it fairly fast and bracket it. Now I will be surprised if he *doesn’t* say it next week.
But as much as it ‘gets’ me, it also let’s me ‘get’ him. He is using it in a different context to my trigger, but the same essence is there. It provides an easy way in to his feeling, because I have an experience where I easily recall my thought process in that moment, and I understand *some* of his experience. I’m not saying it gives me complete understanding – it doesn’t, but it is in a small way a shared experience and when I let him know some of my understanding of his use (without telling him my experience), it was clear that I had empathised with the right parts.
So in short, I guess it’s about being aware of your own triggers and being able to handle them, and at the same time, that leading you to being able to work therapeutically with them 🙂