I had a realization today about my counseling style and how it has changed my outlook on life and how I perceive others. As a counseling education major in grad school, I learned theory. I studied it, memorized it… but I honestly didn’t quite understand it. Professors would ask us to explain our “counseling style” but my answer was always “I’m an eclectic counselor” because how was I supposed to know my theory without actually experiencing the art of working with another person? Fast forward almost 4 years later, two years experience as a middle school counselor, two years experience as a special education teacher and many personal experiences – I finally fully understand my “counseling style” and theory that best represents me. I can now explain it because I use it in my every day life with my family & friends…not to mention my middle (emotional) schoolers.
I found myself explaining my side of a discussion with my typical rant about “perception”. How we see our reality is our perception. My example always saying, “two people could witness the same experience but have two different stories”. Both sides would be correct and valid…because who is to say that how you perceive something isn’t valid? In a real life example, I feel I can related this to my middle school girls that are experiencing peer conflict…sometimes our actions made someone feel a certain way – and maybe we didn’t do that on purpose…or vice versa. We cannot blame another other person for making us feel a certain way…instead we should acknowledge that because of their behavior and the way we perceive it, we are having an emotion to it (and thats OK!)
I am not going to say that getting a 12 year old girl to understand this concept is easy (especially since it has taken me almost thirty years to really grasp this idea fully and realize that now what I believe in life is actually cognitive behavioral therapy)… but I attempt to mold the young minds into identify their thoughts to evaluate how realistic they actually are…and what they can do to help fix it in their mind.
If you don’t like the way somethingin your life is going, what is your first way you cope with that feeling? Maybe a pint of ice cream or a yoga class does the trick? Maybe it puts a bandaid on the issue but I really want to know, how do you REALLY deal with this feeling? Heres where CBT has infiltrated my life – My first thought that comes to my mind is – how would I know that it was better? (identify what it is that you really want) and then I try to figure out what I can do to make this change? What can I do to make this outcome happen the next time? Because honestly – all I really care about is me and how I feel at the end of the day…everyone else is just there doing their thing. ALL I CAN CHANGE IS MYSELF. I can’t expect anyone else to change for me…and sometimes I realize it’s all about how I’m perceiving things to be, I just may need to see it another way in order to make myself have a different view of reality. This mindset helps me stay positive, optimistic and overall happy.
The quote above really encompasses my idea of perception and happiness…happiness is relative and what makes one person happy, may not make the next person happy. However, if you are happy – GREAT, keep it up…what you are doing is really working! If you’re not happy, ask yourself: how can I reframe this experience or thought to be better? What can I think of that will remind myself of all the good things in my life so that this thing doesn’t seem so bad? What about the last time it was different – what did that look like, feel like? These are all questions to ask yourself and those answers should tell you what you need to do to make the situation better. Because again, its up to you – no one else!
So there you have it, my (current) counseling philosophy and life model. I hope that through my probing questions and conflict resolution sessions I’ve convinced a kid (or adult) or two to think a little differently when it comes to how how others are making us feel (even though that goes against what I’ve been saying because, others don’t make us feel, remember? it just didn’t sound as good if I said, how other’s behavior and the emotion we felt because of the way we perceived it made us feel)