Dear Counseling Colleagues,
This month, Counseling Today includes a cover story on death, dying and grief counseling — topics that can be difficult to reflect on and discuss. However, counselors have learned to embrace what is, hope for what can be, and the deep and consistent resilience that can emerge from transitions.
Transitions can be caused by instances of violence, disaster (both natural and unnatural) and death. Developmental transitions that occur can also be sources of grief and loss. But some of these transitions can also reward us with a sense of accomplishment and joy.
That’s the topic of my column this month — the idea that as we age/stage, the process continues mixing into a wonderful confluence of … well, life experience. Counselors and counselor educators have a twofold responsibility. One is to our clients and students, and the other is to ourselves. Self-care, self-reflection and tending to our personal wellness are crucial activities that allow us to be the best practitioners, advisers, students and professors we can be — throughout any transition period.
What are these transitions that occur during certain aspects of our lives? One example is family transitions that take place because of remarriage, divorce, children leaving home or other events that throw off the balance of the family dynamic. It takes effort to recapture that family homeostasis. Another example is a career change or relocation that appears to be a positive step but causes upheaval in some way. Also consider the personal transitions that occur throughout your life, such as establishing independence as a young adult and moving away from home; making choices about your education or relationship status; reflecting on your sexual orientation or identity as an adult of any age/stage; or navigating the reality of someone you care deeply about becoming ill or dying.
Any of these transitions may involve grief, loss, anxiety or joy. If we recognize these transitions and reactions within ourselves, it will be infinitely easier to work with clients and students, and we will be more effective in the process. When counselors view the developmental transitions that naturally take place across the life span as just that — natural — it can seem simpler to work through them.
The act of reevaluating, accepting and activating your resilience as a human being will greatly assist the work you do as a counselor, while also boosting your own life satisfaction. I witness this resiliency every time I speak to a group of counselors at a division, branch or region conference. I urge counselors to embrace their strength and their passion for action and advocacy. We need the spirit!
Every day, consider taking two positive steps or reframing two events that don’t appear at first glance to be supportive, life giving or even safe. If you put such situations into a reframe of strength, they might just become different in your mind. This might entail the idea that the event is a natural progression or, if not, that an event or action can be influenced by your positive energy, resilience or pure dogged determination. Your influence would be a wonderful addition to reimagining any event. Are you willing to try that in your life?
I also want to share some news about our ACA 2017 Conference & Expo in San Francisco. To embrace the many areas of the profession in which our members specialize, we continue honing our education offerings. Each month leading up to the conference, I’ll highlight a few special aspects of the program in this column. So what’s being offered? Here are just a few examples to whet your appetite: 53 sessions on clinical mental health counseling, 29 sessions on LGBTQ issues, 29 sessions on diversity/multicultural counseling and 26 sessions on school counseling. To view the individual education session titles, organized by topic tracks, go to counseling.org/conference/sanfrancisco2017/session-events-2017/education-session-tracks. San Francisco, here we come!
Enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday. We have much to be thankful for!