My Core Counseling Values

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1. Listening

"Being listened to is so close to being loved that most people can’t tell the difference.”

- David Augsberg

I try to listen in my sessions more than I speak. But what kind of listening? I like the term musical listening, which to me means hearing both what’s being said and what’s not being said.

2. Unconditional positive regard

This is a phrase from Carl Rogers, which to me means basic acceptance and support of someone regardless of what he or she says or does. When I’m being listened to with unconditional positive regard I feel I can share my deepest truth and the person I’m with won’t freak out or stop caring about me. I feel safe. And I want my students to feel this way too.

3. Accurate empathy

If a student says to me, “So… I broke up with my boyfriend last week,” I try not to say, “Oh, I’m so sorry, that’s awful,” because I don’t actually know if that’s awful. Maybe it’s awesome. [note] I try to practice accurate empathy. How? By staying curious. So I’ll ask something like, “How’s that going for you?” Because I never know what’s happening in their world. And I’ll learn a lot more if I’m curious about their movie rather than simply projecting my own.

4. Yes, and

My favorite rule from theatrical improvisation is “yes, and.” It means saying “yes” to your partner’s suggestion--both literally and psychologically--and building on it. And it’s essential to the brainstorming process. Saying “no” closes doors precisely when we want to throw open as many as possible. Who knows where the random thought might lead.

5. Student-Centered Counseling

I like to think of my role as a driver’s ed teacher: I try to imagine a student in the driver’s seat while I’m in the passenger seat. I have a steering wheel, a brake, and an accelerator, so I can steer, slow down, or ramp up a session when necessary. But ideally the student does the driving.

6. Taking Risks

If you’re bored, you aren’t taking enough risks.

I challenge my students to do this and I try to take my own advice. Life is short. So go for it.

7. Silence

My friend Nicole once told me, “When someone is sharing their Truth, you shut up.” It can sometimes be tough to tell when someone is sharing their Truth, but if you sense someone might be doing so, I try to shut up.

Also, it can sometimes feel awkward to simply sit beside a student while s/he is writing. But sitting is great. In fact, sometimes it’s exactly right.

These two situations have one thing in common:

“The being is the doing.”

Allowing someone time to process--either aloud or while writing--while I sit and simply hold space is a gift. And it’s enough.