As counselors, we all face challenges. One challenge that I have discussed with many colleagues over the years is, “Am I really making a difference?” Most of us came into this profession with a strong desire to help others. As we work with people, sometimes we may wonder if we are actually accomplishing that desire.
In the 25+ years I have been counseling people, I have learned a few important things about this topic. First, sometimes we are helping people, but neither they nor we recognize it at the time. Sometimes, the things we say or do simply take some time to percolate/resonate with our clients. At some point in the future, they really take hold of a suggestion, tool, idea and it works for them. If we are fortunate, they let us know. (I had a client contact me about 5 years later and tell me that I really helped her!) Normally, we may never find out. If you feel that you offered the best you have to offer, then allow that to be enough and feel good about your efforts.
Second important lesson I learned: We can only help people who are ready, willing and able to accept it. If someone comes in who is not ready to make any changes, we can only do so much. If someone comes in who is not willing to make any changes, we can only do so much. If someone is unable to make changes, we can only do so much. It is our responsibility to pay attention and make sure that the client can make changes and work with what is available. Sometimes, I have told clients to “take a break and get back to me” if I found that nothing was moving. This gives them a chance to re-evaluate and me a break from feeling frustrated.
Final lesson (for this post anyway): Be honest with people. If you truly don’t believe you can handle a problem that comes your way, tell people!!! No one can help everyone and I have found that people appreciate me being honest and then trying to help them find someone who may have a specialty in that particular issue/problem. We cannot be all things to all people, so just be honest and move on. You and the client will both be glad you did!