So, the summer is coming to an end; seasons are changing. So, too are my clients: there is a change of the guard as some clients have left and new clients start. As autumn develops and winter approaches I tend to get busier than in the balmier months of summertime. Counselling can be a funny old business.
A bit like Nanny McPhee and Mary Poppins, endings are a fact of life for counsellors: clients arrive on the door step loaded down with their stuff and things, we do our work and then clients move on. Clients often leave their troubles safely in the counselling space with me and ride off into sunset (hopefully).
It’s a bittersweet moment and I often say to clients that it feels wrong to say “its been a pleasure”, but often it has. Also, I often say that “I hope I don’t see you again”, because that would mean (a bit like the emergency services) that things are going a bit wrong again for my clients. Some do dip in and out for a top up as it were, for a maintenance check.
Ideally either counsellor or client signals the end of a period of counselling in advance. In a super-ideal world the end is mutually recognised as approaching, and the client feels ready. An ideal ending is talked about and prepared for and whilst it can often be sad, the ending is amicable and professional.
Yup, you’ve guessed it, we’re often not in an ideal world:
Some clients have their session numbers limited by the organisation paying for them, and so we seem to prepare for the ending before we’ve begun.
Sudden unforeseen circumstances can pull the plug without warning: finances, transport issues, relationship endings, fall-outs with the person paying (for instance parents), moving house, moving jobs, childcare issues, illness … The list is seemingly endless.
If a client lets me know their circumstances and keeps me informed I can work with them and we can end sessions in a calm prepared professional manner. Sometimes, this ending can even happen by phone, text or email. As a Counsellor I work with real people in real life so I get that things can be less than ideal at times and so we go with it.
Unfortunately however, clients can just stop coming.
Clearly, coming to counselling is the client’s choice and particularly as a Person-Centred Counsellor I thoroughly believe and stand by the client’s right to choose. But from my point of view when a client “ghosts” me it can be very disconcerting. I am only human when all said and done!
I fret that the client is OK;
I worry about them: has anything happened to prevent them from coming to counselling;
I worry that I had not done my job properly;
I worry that I have offended them;
I worry that things got too intense for them and they are now left holding all that… The thoughts and worries are numerous.
As with any human-to-human interaction an unknown, dissatisfying ending can linger and so I worry about the feelings and aftermath around that for the client: as a Counsellor I am trained and I have my clinical supervisor, clients can be private people so they can be left dealing with all of that alone which is so not the point.
There are thoughts that people’s human interactions throughout their lives are directly informed and affected by their “Attachment Style”. I won’t go into this here: but I do believe this can affect the client-counsellor relationship dynamic.
Ideally Counselling can be a way to model behaviour ready for in the real world so that clients might practice new ways of being and learn from past interactions and patterns of behaviour, so it is my sincere hope that I can work with my clients and draw their sessions to a timely, appropriate and amicable ending. But if not, maybe there is still learning to be done for both parties even in an imperfect ending. I am still getting used to “the not knowing”, which is a term used in training for work at The Samaritans.