When people first consider attending Counselling, the reasons are many and varied, including crisis situations, unresolved, relationship difficulties, family problems that have grown beyond the families’ ability to cope, painful experiences of grief and loss and a host of other presenting issues.
According to the most recent industry literature, it is estimated that there are over 400 models of Counselling & Therapy available worldwide, and around 3000 Counsellors currently practice in New Zealand (this number includes state-funded and private practice agencies).
Only 3% of Counsellors worldwide measure their client outcomes: to give this measure some context, this equates to about 1 in 10,000. In this environment, it is helpful if some key common themes are identified, and in my own Practice experience to date, I have noticed three themes that are consistent in their presence in people’s lives.
Clients have often heard me describe “Values” as the template or framework upon which we live our lives, and upon which we base our life decisions.
Values can be both “caught” and “taught”, depending on either our family-or-origin experiences, or our on-going life learning and influences.
Values usually exist in the sub-conscious – we often recognise this when we say things like “that didn’t feel right”, or “I’m feeling uncomfortable about this” or some similar commentary.
The truth is that each of us can have Values, and yet be utterly apart from the values we hold to be true, at the same time.
We then experience a “cognitive dissonance” or a double-mindedness about decision-making, and have difficulty in working out the answer to the question “what is the right thing to do, in this situation?”
Knowing what our values are, and then living in accordance with these values, can go a long way towards resolving this tension, as we are no longer in opposition to ourselves.
Boundaries are the limits we put in place for both ourselves, and others. They are implicit and explicit “messages” that help teach others about how we wish to be treated, and teaches us how to treat others.
Boundaries are essential for the goals of being respected, for standing up for what we believe in, and for placing respectful sanctions upon those who would seek to assault our boundaries. In my observation over the years, if boundaries are absent in a person’s life, and then chaos is most usually their constant companion.
Boundaries are fluid in the sense that they can be re-negotiated with others on a platform of increased or decreased trust: if our values and boundaries are being respected by others, then we let those people come closer to us, and if our values and boundaries are not being respected by others, then we keep either them or ourselves at a safe distance from them.
Establishing and maintaining consistent boundaries, predicated on our core values is a key life skill, and one that can help to minimise painful and hurtful situations in our lives.
Our purpose is the reason behind that which we do, work towards, or pursue.
Some of the greatest (and at times most tortured) thinkers throughout the ages have attempted to answer questions of purpose: Who am I? What am I here for? What will be my legacy? How should one live? have been the common questions from Plato to Chomsky, from Augustine to Nietzsche, and from Aquinas to Derrida, and each has ultimately experienced the varied consequences of their thinking outcomes.
After working in the Social Services field for 18 years, in a host of different environments, and having met and worked with thousands of people across a range of cultures, I have come to the following conclusions on the issue of purpose:
1/ Everyone has purpose and something significant to offer to someone, or something – some people just have a little bit of difficulty discovering it for themselves. There are no “redundant” people in life, and people who believe they are “redundant” doesn’t make it so.
2/ No experience, no matter how trivial, how big, and no matter what the outcome of the experience, is ever a “waste of time”, or a reason to feel hopeless. Experience acts as a teacher, and if learning and wisdom result from the experience (painful or otherwise), then the result is ultimately useful, not useless.
3/ Regardless of circumstance or experience, there is always the (eventual) opportunity of getting back up. Our opportunity to “get back up” in the world we live in only ends when we draw our last breath, and until then, we still hold the pen to the story of our own life.
There will be times when people will feel as if they can’t write another word of their story, which may be appropriate for the time and place they are in – their job in such a life stage is simply to look around for a pen, and place it next to them to use when they feel once more ready to compose. Values; boundaries; purpose: three key issues worthy of further personal reflection and thought.
Kind Regards, Steve Taylor, Director, 24-7 Ltd www.24-7.org.nz