Friday, April 6, 2007

The new counselor

A while back I declared a day "flowers for bravery day" because I did something that I felt was brave (for me). And this is the follow up to that.

I am getting a degree in counseling while working full time in another field. Every student in the particular program I am in is required to see a counselor. Which is really smart I think. I would never want to see a counselor who had never been in counseling.

To meet this requirement I had been seeing a counselor who I like a lot, but who I don't feel has the resources to journey with me in this season. Or in other words, I want to see a counselor who doesn't think homosexuality is sin. So in a moment of uncharacteristic bravery I called up a place that focuses on GBLT clients. I was interviewed by them and I asked if they could help me find someone who had some sort of faith perspective. I wondered if it was possible to find a counselor who could get the trickiness of integrating my love for God/Jesus and christian identity with this new journey I'm on. They assigned me a counselor.

When I am a counselor I hope I remember how scary it can be to initiate a phone call and an appointment with a stranger like this. And for me initiating a phone call and appointment with someone who is focused on helping people talk through sexuality (amongst other things) is even more scary since in my upbringing and history sexuality itself is a topic never talked about.

Yesterday was the first time I actually met this referred counselor. I had tried to find someone new once before and it was a horrible experience. So I had very very low expectations this time. I almost assumed going in that they would not understand how important my christian faith was or would tell me to just go out and experiment sexually like the other counselor did. I also thought this counselor would be old. Her voice sounded old on the phone.

Alas, I was totally wrong on all counts. Her name is Valarie. She is relatively young. My inability to figure out her age from her voice was due to the fact that she grew up speaking multiple languages (Hungarian, Spanish, Hebrew) while living in Argentina. She is Jewish. Which is great because it's a good conversational partner for Christianity. And for every question I asked regarding faith and sexuality she responded in a way that was thought provoking at least, and which didn't make me want to leave the room.

She herself is not 100% straight (my words not hers). She is also smart. Or at least I am assuming that since she teaches a counseling class at a local university. And that's important for me, especially since she is so client centered. I like the client centered idea of counseling but I find that sometimes it can get dumbed down or diluted because the client (me) leads. And frankly I have no idea where I'm going. So at least having a counselor who can be my equal in dialogue helps because although I think counselors need stunning listening/empathy skills I also think they need to have the ability to challenge and direct etc. in a dialogical way.

The final thing I'll say in the post-mortum of my appointment is that I liked the context. There was an everyday feeling about the building and her. Yes I am picky, but I have never liked seeing a counselor in their home. It weirds me out. And I also don't like posh upscale offices that make me feel like I need to match my interior to the perfectly decorated office. This counselors office was wonderfully average. And she wasn't dressed in a way that was yuppie or out of date. Sun was coming in the window and there was something centering about the normality of the space.

I know these are just all my judgments about things but somehow all this combined so that I am actually going back. And in the counseling field issues of retention are rather huge. Why someone chooses a counselor or doesn't. Why someone actually comes in. All of this is great learning for my future and for today. What better way to learn by walking the road myself.


M said...

I love to know that people are reading and enjoying what I'm writing. It'll help me keep writing, for sure. Thank you!

And good luck with the counseling. I went into some the beginning of this year. I was terrified and worried it would end up like every other experience (from bad to not so good) but it's been wonderful and fulfilling. I couldn't have asked for anything better. I hope it goes well for you too!

M said...

Oh, and I linked to you, too. :)

Zuzu said...

So let's see the new flowers! YAY for another brave day! - Zuzu

~Deb said...

I’ve been trying to find a counselor that’s Christian for the longest time. When I did find that rare one, she was against homosexuality and wanted me to be an ‘ex-gay’. That’s the same thing if I wanted to be an “ex-Italian”!

Anyway, it’s a shame that some of these counselors prefer to not share the religion for the sake of potentially ruining a client/therapist relationship.

I also think it’s a brilliant idea that therapists go through therapy…like an alcoholic who becomes an alcoholic counselor. They just know more about it… (Okay, bad example, but you know what I mean!)

Happy Easter!

~Deb said...

Hmm, I swear I thought I linked you before, but you are nowhere to be found on my blogroll....RELINKING! Ahhhh, I need a drink! TGIF!

just me said...

M and Deb thanks for your comments!

And thanks be to God there are great counselors out there who can talk through the integration of all of who we are in a holistic way. It just takes some interviewing! :)