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By Kelsey Johnson

Counseling is a very unique, beautiful, and sometimes strange process. We don’t ordinarily devote 50 minutes of our lives to sit down and talk about ourselves and reflect on our thoughts and feelings. When we do make that time for pause and reflection, we can discover a lot about ourselves and the ways we interact with the world. As counselors, we get many questions about our experience from the other side of the conversation. People ask if in our own life as a spouse or parent do we follow the same advice we give to our clients. People wonder if we think that they’re as crazy as they think they are. Some people just want to know if their feelings are valid and if they will ever feel better. As counselors, our focus is always on you, the client. This is why we tend to deflect personal questions and keep the conversation focused on what is bringing you to therapy. Your time is very valuable to us, and we want to show respect for the sacrifice you make to take time to care for yourself. That being said, there are a few things I have come to realize in my first years as a professional counselor that may be helpful to share. If you’ve ever wanted a peek inside the mind of a counselor, then keep reading!

What your counselor (or at least this counselor) wants you to know:

  1. Your story is holy ground.

It takes great trust and courage to share your deepest thoughts, feelings, and experiences with a stranger. I try very intentionally to remain mindful of the sacredness of your story. If you are trusting me with yourself, I promise to unlace my sandals to stand in awe before the sacred mystery that is your life and your experience.

  1. Understanding is everything.

Lack of understanding is one of the biggest issues I see people wrestling with. In marriage counseling in particular, the underlying problem often involves one or both spouses feeling misunderstood. Many things can get in the way of understanding, defensiveness being the main culprit. In working with individuals, I find that many wounds are caused by another not communicating understanding in a time of great need. Giving others the gift of feeling understood is one of our greatest powers of healing. As a counselor, I want you to feel understood.

  1. What we don’t know about ourselves can hurt us and those around us.

Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to self-awareness. Fostering awareness of our own patterns of operating and the ways we have been influenced by our upbringing and by others in our lives is incredibly necessary to not pass on the wounds inflicted to us. Counseling is a journey of self-discovery, and I see it as my role to journey with you as you get more acquainted with the person looking back at you in the mirror.

  1. Identity—How you see yourself is key.

Almost every issue that arises in the counseling office can be traced back to our identity. Our identity tells us who we are. Where we find our identity can be life-giving or it can be utterly damaging. Identity comes from our relationship with ourselves, with others in our life, and with God. Life provides many opportunities for these relationships to be strengthened and damaged. As a counselor, I want you to discover your true identity and help undo any twisted knots formed from the effects of sin, past experiences, or broken relationships.

  1. We aren’t judging you.

Our tendency as human beings is to present ourselves in the best light possible. In order to truly engage in the necessary work of counseling, we often need to reveal the darker parts of us that we’re not so proud of. This takes vulnerability and courage. As a counselor, I want you to know that you don’t have to justify your words or actions; you don’t have to convince me that you’re a good person. I already know.My promise to you is that I will always see you as good and worthy. I will help you to remember your intrinsic self-worth even when it is difficult for you to fathom. You are good and worthy of love because that is how God made you. Nothing you could ever say or do will make me believe otherwise.

  1. We learn as much from you as you learn from us.

The resilience and cleverness of clients inspire me all the time. As we engage in the counseling process, I am learning from the ways you grow and change and from the walls you run into along the way. As the counselor, I offer you my expertise, knowledge, and tools, but it is you who put these things into practice and adapt them to fit your life. The way you implement these tools and find success shapes the way I help future clients to overcome similar struggles. The way you are overcoming your trials will pass on a legacy that helps others to do the same.

  1. Your life and hard work inspire us.

The clients I have seen for counseling are some of the bravest, strongest, most inspiring people I have ever met. It takes great courage and humility to admit when you need help, to be willing to take an honest look at the hardest parts of your life, and to commit to new ways of thinking and behaving. As a counselor, I have a deep and profound respect for the sacrifice you make to come to counseling and the effort you place in our work together. It is my honor to accompany you on the journey.

Becoming a counselor has been a humbling, challenging, and rewarding experience. As I learn to let the Holy Spirit lead each session and invite the Divine Healer to come and work, I am given the opportunity to see glimpses of the Garden of Eden and the ways God intended for us to live and love. It was never the plan for us to encounter the suffering and brokenness that leads many to counseling, but in His goodness, God brings about beauty and restoration from the broken places. In His goodness, He allows us to journey together and be vessels of His healing love and grace.