Thursday, October 11, 2012
I have a lot of practicum students that when making their initial transition from book learning to application, naturally feel reserved and hesitant when approaching their first individual counseling session. How do I get students/clients to open up and talk to me? How do I apply theory to practice? How do I know if I'm asking the right questions? These are all normal feelings and questions newbies experience and with time and practice the comfort and confidence comes.
I love when situations that arise for practicum/internship students come up in my own practice as a counselor. Recently, I was working with a 7 year old client that frequently broke out into tears, didn't talk, and was overall emotionally immature for their age. These clients can be quite hard to work with because how can you help them work through a problem when you don't know what the problem or cause of the problem is?! When working with this client, I decided to "get back to basics" and really take the extra time to work on forming a connection. To do this, I used bubbles. We simply sat together and blew bubbles. After a few minutes, I noticed the clients expression and demeanour became more relaxed and calm. The second time I did this with them, I simply asked an open ended question, "How has your day been?" and they started talking, and talking, and talking!!
By allowing clients, especially younger clients, to be physically engaged in an activity; drawing, playing with sand, blowing bubbles, or using some other manipulative, they naturally become more relaxed and expressive. Building a positive rapport with all clients you work with is the foundation of the helping relationship. While doing this you get to know them, their interests, how they handle different situations, and their outlook on life. With this information and established relationship you're able to help them work through their presenting issues. The questions from my practicum students and the recent client situation I had served as great reminders to "get back to the basics" and slow down to build that relationship with clients (which might take longer for some than others) while doing something interactive and fun. So, whether you're a new or seasoned counselor; remember to work on building a rapport with your clients and when in doubt...get out the bubbles!