Over the past year, I’ve had the honour to be a part of so many people’s journeys towards health and healing. Daily, my colleagues and I witness the tremendous courage it takes for each new client to bare his or her soul to a complete stranger. Sometimes this is the first telling of abuse from long ago or “confessions” of long standing unhappiness in a relationship. Other times it is a decision to move away from unhealthy coping or the conviction to face a paralyzing fear or gain the tools to break free from the grips of depression. Some clients are in such despair they struggle to find a reason for living. The irony is that while often clients come in seeking “expert” advice, the reality is that each of us is the only true expert in our lives. Although, having a witness to our inner world is both validating and empowering, almost always the answer lies within these courageous individuals. Our goal, as Scott Miller, founder of the International Center for Clinical Excellence and as his colleagues suggest, is to help clients find the heroic moments within their stories.
“How can you do this work? Isn’t it depressing hearing all those stories of pain and despair?”
I remember my grandmother asking me this question early on in my career. At that time as now, I find the opposite to be true. Although vicarious trauma is a reality of this work, even more so is the experience of vicarious resilience. As therapists, we observe the power of the human spirit to heal from and even overcome life’s tragedies and adversities such as poverty, abuse, addictions, losses and mental health struggles. Despite multiple barriers and a lack of resources, I’ve seen time and time again the tremendous capacity for healing and wholeness that people have and the opportunities that abound within crises. What other profession is blessed with regular witnessing of “small miracles”: clients reporting less physical pain after a visualization exercise; the reduction of nightmares and better sleeping after processing a trauma; seeing the light and regaining a sense of hope after leaving an abusive partner; youth learning the tools to deal with bullying and the uncertainty of an unknown future; men breaking the cycle of violence as they shed destructive beliefs about women and people learning to challenge their unhelpful thinking and let go of internalized shame and fear. There is nothing more rewarding than empowering a client who is considering death as the only option out of their pain to reconnect with their inspiration for living. As one client eloquently put it; “suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”
Helping our clients reconnect with their strengths to face their fears, challenge destructive patterns and adapt new, healthy coping strategies paves the way for individuals to become the partners, parents and people they were meant to be. The people that have entered 18 Walnut St. and our satellite locations over the past year and in the 72 years we have been serving Cambridge and North Dumfries are truly heroes.
Don’t wait to start making important changes in your life today! Join us at our walk-in counselling clinic on Thursdays beginning at 1pm.
I wish you all a safe and healthy holiday season and hope you will consider helping us to continue to inspire and create opportunities for change in 2013 by donating to the agency or participating in the pamper yourself for a year draw (Tickets can be purchased at the agency and we will be given 50% of FCCCND allocated sales).
Nicole, Dec 2012