When I first started practicing counselling with my peers in graduate school, I was surprised at how much energy it took to be fully present with another person’s story and carefully weave in emerging counselling skills. I came out of practice sessions feeling both excited and drained. Thankfully, my counselling skills and energy regulation have evolved since those early days. There are specific, quick strategies that help me to remain centered and grounded during sessions and between clients, and I’d like to share them here with you.
- Hydrate. This was one of the best pieces of advice that I heard in my graduate degree courtesy of Dr. Dawn McBride – she recommended drinking plenty of water during sessions to remain hydrated. This helps prevent literal headaches for me, which makes life easier! Taking a thoughtful sip of water can buy a moment of reflection to respond to an unexpected client statement. As a bonus, the act of getting up after a session to refill a water bottle allows for a quick physical break and sense of movement between sessions.
- Imagine. I work with clients on creating containment imagery to help them feel safe, and I use my own mental container when I need to disengage from a persistent thought or story after a session. I reserve this for the “big stuff” that would otherwise affect my ability to be fully present with my next client. Alternatively, I might visualize thoughts as clouds that are drifting by or another similar image to gently detach from them.
- Sense. After a heavy session, I often like to do a quick act of self-nurturing with one or more of my senses. I keep a little self-care first aid kit in my office with things like mints, lip balm, hand lotion, a peppermint essential oil roller, and river stones. I can use any combination of these to anchor and nurture myself in the brief space between two clients.
- Write. In a perfect world, I complete my notes in the 10-minute space between clients -when this happens, I feel like a rockstar. Realistically, my notes are usually done at the end of the day. Concisely distilling 50 minutes of work to capture progress and plans helps me to clearly mark a boundary between one client and the next. At the end of the day, it helps me to draw a line in the sand between work and home, the professional and the personal. Either way, I feel that my work is safely (and ethically) contained and I am free to move along with the next part of my day.
Well, there are a few quick strategies that I use throughout my workday to refresh and stay regulated. What are your favourite ways to care for your needs between clients? Feel free to reflect or post in the comments below.
Annelise Lyseng is a registered psychologist at MacEwan University in Edmonton, Alberta.
The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA