A couple of years ago, I graduated into the role of mental health counselor. While working with clients, I began to learn a lot about humans. I learned the most — not from my classes and seminars and trainings, not from my supervisor, not from my colleagues — but from my clients.
As I sat with person after person in my office — them, on my velvet blue loveseat and me, in an overused grey, sagging armchair — I began to see the true honor of this job. To be a counselor meant I was privileged with the role of sitting with people’s stories. I got to hear and process the messiest aspects of life. Previously strangers before stepping into my office, my clients trusted me to listen and witness their stories. Not only did I listen. I was humbled. I was honored. I soaked in the humanness of each person and received it without judgment.
While it is my job to help guide clients toward inner healing, I am also doing work of my own. I am collecting mental data about humans, what makes us similar, and how our struggles connect us. In collecting this data, I find I am also healing. Healing, right alongside the humans that come through my door.
My clients have taught me these three things:
- We search for belonging.
Before becoming a counselor, I used to say that “my strongest weapon against darkness was connection”. As I went through my own recovery from an eating disorder, I realized what I was searching for was a way to communicate my inner pain and be received with support and love from people around me. Fear had kept me trapped in my own mind, believing that food could replace language. If I didn’t eat, then surely people would understand I was suffering. I didn’t need to tell anyone that. They could read my mind. Of course, this didn’t work.
Now, I’ve sat with countless humans, acting as their therapist, and I’ve come to realize the desire to connect with people and feel like we belong isn’t unique. Though this desire takes different forms depending on the client, underneath we are the same. We want to know that we have a place in this world. Even for the most disconnected, even for the most difficult and brash — their strongest weapon against darkness is connection. Hence why the therapeutic relationship can become so essential in the…