Musings of a Conference Junkie

Posted by: Stephanie Burley on June 2, 2015 8:28 am

June 2, 2015

Self-care has become a hot topic within the realm of counselling, and rightfully so. As counsellors we are witness to an incredible amount of pain, loss, trauma, and a myriad of other emotions. In order to forge a positive therapeutic alliance with our clients it is important that we as counsellors are in a place of wellness so that we can bring our own strength into the counselling relationship to assist our clients by asking those hard questions, and listening without judgement. In my own experience I find that I often don’t know that I need to indulge in self-care until I finally do it. Once immersed in a self-care activity it becomes strikingly apparent that, boy, did I need it! Last week I had the privilege of spending three and a half days at the CCPA National Annual Conference in Niagara Falls. It might sound odd to equate attending a busy, mentally taxing conference with self-care, but I can assure you that is exactly what it was. This is an interesting point to consider – self-care needs to be tailored to the individual. Not everyone will find the same activities rejuvenating or restful.

Currently I am working as a Career Counsellor in an Ontario university. Although I have seen some attitude change, I believe that there is a belief that career counselling is different from personal counselling. I’ve heard colleagues in non-counselling roles indicate that career counselling was the “light” side of counselling. I suppose in some instances this may be true. However, as a career counsellor I can attest to the fact that the clients that join me in my office are often experiencing emotions linked to loss, grief, disappointment, confusion, frustration and shame. Over the past several months I have seen students – both at the undergraduate and graduate level – arriving in my office and sharing stories of financial crises, marital separation, heniagara-falls-113525_640alth concerns, stress and anxiety, familial pressure to succeed, and suicidal ideation. The number of instances where I have asked the student sitting in front of me “are you planning on harming yourself?” is now so high I’ve lost track. The idea that career counselling is “light” counselling does not align with the experience I have had throughout my career.

At the CCPA conference I connected with fellow career counsellors and practitioners who validated the experience of “heavy” career counselling that has been my reality. For me, validation is a powerful means by which to bolster my own resilience and motivation. During the Conversation Café portion of the conference I was able to attend a brief session hosted by Life Strategies where “10 Ways That Career Counselling is Personal Counselling” were discussed. Thank you, Life Strategies.

There are many aspects to a conference that, for me, foster self-care. Attending sessions and keynotes allowed me to reflect on my daily counselling practices, and collect new tools and a renewed strength to provide the students in my office with a stronger, more empathic version of myself. Winning a Hershey’s gift basket as a door prize certainly contributed to my sense of rejuvenation as well!

Would you believe me if I said that spending three and a half days surrounded by likeminded professionals was inspiring? Because that’s how it felt. I left Niagara Falls with a skip in my counselling step, feeling energized and refreshed. My passion for the field of counselling having been newly ignited. It’s amazing how engaging discussions of best practices and research findings mixed with socializing among professional peers can impact us. Self-care – for some it might be yoga or meditation. For this counsellor, it’s hitting the conference circuit with my fellow counsellors. I’ll be counting down the days until the next national conference. See you in Montreal!

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

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