Have you ever wondered what goes on inside a therapist’s office? Here is a little peek inside my counseling practice (at least the parts I can share!).
I mostly counsel teenage boys and their families. For the teenagers, they are often coming under duress and in various stages of displeasure.
While I would love to have more motivated clients, this is a reality that I accept and actually something that I can relate to. I was 15 years old when my Mom dragged me to a therapist’s office. That is a story for another post. 🙂
It is my mission, in that first session, to make a connection with the teenage boy and together figure out how counseling might actually help him. You can imagine that this is a tricky task. Then I say, “What do you think about coming back next week?” I get all types of responses, but usually it tips on the positive side.
Hopefully, I have shown him that I may be able to understand his situation and that I am, in fact, a safe and trustworthy adult. This usually involves a good dose of humor and empathy for his predicament.
I thought it would be interesting to share with you some of the behind the scenes information on what I do in my counseling office.
I form a trusting relationship with my clients.
I know this sounds exactly like something a therapist would say, but it is so important. This relationship is based on confidentiality and mutual respect.
When I am talking to my teenage clients, I explain the “Vegas Rule” to them. That means that what happens in counseling stays in counseling. Usually, they laugh or at least crack a smile. This is a vital part of effective counseling and especially so with teenagers. If my clients think there is a chance that I am going to share their personal information with their parents, they will not talk to me.
The Vegas Rule covers some sensitive topics like sexual activity and drug use. I explain to parents that I will keep this information private, unless I believe their son is in imminent danger. This can be uncomfortable for some parents, while others agree to this readily, simply wanting their son to have someone to talk to.
Here are some of the ways that I help teenage boys in counseling.
- Understanding and managing their feelings
- Learning how to communicate and get along with their families
- Learning emotional problem solving skills
- Finding solutions that work by collaborating with my clients and their families
- Understanding their strengths and using them to be more successful in life
- Learning how to take responsibility for their feelings and their actions
- Developing a greater capacity for empathy and understanding other people, especially their families
I create a new therapy for each client.
This means that counseling never looks the same. I look for creative ways to support my clients and use a different approach for each kid. Sometimes this involves playing football in the parking lot, sometimes it is art therapy, sometimes it is making lists on the white board, sometimes it is creating role plays and other times it is just having honest conversations, including using the “F” word (that would be Feelings).
Sometimes my clients tells their parents, “All we do is play chess” or some form of this kind of statement. I often reassure the parents that I am not just playing games with their son, I am working my magic. Often times, boys (men included) communicate more openly and honestly while doing activities and I use this fact to my advantage.
I make a sincere effort to keep teenagers interested and engaged in therapy. I listen to them, I encourage them and I challenge them to make tough decisions and feel empowered to take control of their lives. It is difficult, but rewarding work and I can’t imagine myself doing anything else.