Endings

Someone asked me to write about endings, so here it is.

 

There are several types of endings I’ve been through since I started seeing clients:

 

The ones where clients stop coming without notice and don’t respond to any contact

The ones where clients call (or text) and tell you they aren’t coming

The ones where clients come and ‘out of the blue’ tell you in session that this is their last session

The ones where you and the client plan for an ending together.

 

Putting aside the ones where you don’t see a client to plan, this is how I have experienced endings in the past.

 

When a client reaches a point where either they express a desire to end (or spread out sessions), or I notice that they seem to be heading towards this, I tend to point out that something has changed, and ask them how they feel about lessening or ending sessions. I often find that clients are surprised when I suggest that they can move to fortnightly (and then monthly) sessions rather than┬ájust ‘leaving’ and so far, I haven’t had a client say they would rather just stop – there is a certain safety net in ending more slowly and seeing how it feels to extend time without seeing your counsellor. I recognise that not all placements allow this however (I believe that my formal placement – as opposed to my own service – runs in this manner, although I’ve never tested it).

 

In that last session, it can feel odd – what do you do? How do you keep it person centered?

 

For me, I let the client run the session where I can. If I am at one placement I have to go through some paperwork. I get that completed at the start of the session, and then I let it go pretty much as a normal session in all honesty. I might ask a client how they are feeling about ending and explore that with them, but it’s unlikely to be the first time it’s come up – I would probably feeling a bit remiss I’ve got to an end session with a client and HAVEN’T talked about endings.Once my clients understand what is available from me in future if needed I am happy for them to direct the session as normal. As however they want to have the session. Is there something specific? No. For me it’s about making sure the client is ok in the last 50 minutes. I’ve had clients come in their last hour who obviously didn’t feel they *needed* to come, but wanted to. I’ve had clients come and say ‘I haven’t mentioned this BIG thing before, but I just want someone to know it: (XYZ)’, and then once I’m told, I become almost the ‘holder’ of that thing, and they feel they have achieved what they need. In my own placement, I let clients know that if they want to come back, they just need to contact me and I will put them on the waiting list (or offer them a space if there is one), and in my other placement, I explain what the procedure is (there is a period of time clients must wait before they can go back on the waiting list, but in that time the associated helpline is accessible).

 

There’s no real ‘one way’ to do it, and it’s more about staying true to each of my client relationships, than any particular ‘person-centered’ process. Do what feels right ­čÖé

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Wondering what you’d like to know

 

 

I’ve been writing blog posts on and off (mostly on) for just about 18 months now. In that time I’ve gained over 100 followers that I can see on wordpress, and others who have signed up via RSS (and I have no idea about. Hi! *waves*).

 

Often times I don’t know what I’m going to write about until I sit down at the computer on a Tuesday afternoon, desperately trying to come up with something. Often something from a client session will trigger something (even if not directly related) that will give me a topic, so I’m usually glad to wait until the evening after I’ve seen at least a client or two that week, but sometimes, like today, nothing immediately comes to mind. As I was walking back to my counselling room (having brought my laptop in case a client DNAed) after a client DNAed, it occurred to me to wonder – is there anything people reading would like to know?

 

Whether it’s been a long time since your training (or whether you’ve had no training), or whether you’re in training and you want someone else’s opinion on something around training, or being a trainee, and how that relates to anything in the journey. Or whether you’re a client, and you want to know something from (albeit a trainee’s) point of view about counselling. I’d be happy to answer things if I can – with the understanding that I’m just one person, and it’s just my fledgling opinion and experience..

 

So – I’m signing out, wondering ‘what do you want to know?’ Comments go up with whatever name you please, and I’m happy with anonymity, so please ask. It would be a lovely change to answer something, rather than just send myself out blithely!

You’re voting for whom?!

 

A client recently told me who they were intending to vote for. It was a shot out of the blue for me; I would not have expected it and had to work quickly to move the surprise from my face and maintain a clear face – the party wasn’t the important thing at that point, so I was able to put it to one side. But I guess it’s just another one of those times where a client surprises you with a thought or a word about a group of people, (positive or negative). It’s happened to me before – I’ve lost count of the times I’ve heard from varying clients ‘I’m not racist, but..’, or a homophobic, biphobic or transphobic comment, or an anti-religious comment, or an ableist one. It’s a conversation hotly debated amongst trainees; do you challenge, or do you let it go? Is it important to the working relationship? Does allowing the comment to pass unchallenged somehow make my practice (as in my overall place of work, as well as individually) in some way oppressive? Does it challenge UPR? Is it un-person-centered?

 

I haven’t come to a conclusion as of yet. So far I seem to be in a place where I gently challenge an outright prejudiced comment, to see if the client genuinely means what they said, or if it is just a throw-away, IF the context of the conversation allows for it. I don’t stop the client’s process and offer ‘whoa! wind back a minute! you said…’, but I might point someone back to it and check my understanding was correct. If it is, and the work allows for it, I might unpack it.

 

The problem with this is that the only things that get picked up are those in the client’s awareness. I’m willing to get that in counselling rooms across the country, clients are saying some things that are shocking, and counsellors do not see them as problematic. In my other life, I read a paper recently about the teaching of ‘homosexuality’ in schools in sex and relationship education. In the paper, 60% of teachers who took part said that they were comfortable teaching about being LGB (T is rarely mentioned), but 60% of the teachers who were observed teaching about LGB identities we rated as being in some way ‘problematic’ in their teaching, either through their lack of addressing prejudiced comments from students (or joining in with prejudiced jokes) or simply because they just ignored the fact that LGB identities existed. All of those things are problematic – whilst ‘other’ identities remain othered, there is a danger that they remain ‘easy targets’. By bringing those identities into the counselling room we make them less available for negative comment – by usualising them.

 

Political identity however? I hope it’s something that changes over time, and for the ‘better’ (I’m joking here….)