Wednesday, April 22, 2009

What brings you here today?

One of the questions I like to ask when I'm doing an intake, an assessment, or now, a first counseling session, is "what brings you here today, what was different about today that made you decide to come in".  What I'm trying to
get at is the motivation for change, was it a sudden revelation or was it a long time coming?  Sure, you may have been thinking about seeing a counselor
for a long time, but what changed that you picked up the phone today, because something did.

What I've discovered, is that people seem to have a really hard time answering that question.  When I was doing detox intakes it was often "well, I'm drinking too much" or "my worker made me".  Well, those are decent reason, but what prompted you to walk in our door, what was that mental process, it's not an easy thing to do after all.  Perhaps you said to yourself, "enough is enough, I'm ready for this" or something similar.

Now, I'm getting transfer clients to build my caseload.  Basically, not everyone in the program is required to attend counseling, but they are able to access it when they need it.  Often they spend more time working with the job people and the employment support people.  So, I'm getting clients who are partway through the program but are looking for counseling now.  This is good.  BUT they seem to also have a very hard time.  What brings you here today.  The answer I usually get, is "life issues".  Well yes, but you've been thinking about this particular thing for a while, what was the thing that pushed you to make that call?

Thinking from the clients perspective though, it's a hard question.  What was that thing that made you do it.  I know when I first chose to get counseling, I found it really hard.  Making that call was agonizing.  I purposely planned it so that I would be leaving a voicemail rather then having to talk to a live person.  I stood there in the kitchen with the cordless phone in my hand deciding whether to dial.  But, I had a good reason for why that day out of other days, it came the day after I felt I had been intensely betrayed by two people I trusted a great deal.  That was what pushed me over the edge.

Change is a hard process and I really believe that it's important to be aware of our motivations for change.  Why are we doing what we do.  It's a lot easier to stick to your plan if you understand the reason things came about in the first place.  Further, it helps us understand ourselves better when we're aware of our motivations and the reasons we do things, even if it's things we learn in retrospect.

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