Thursday 28 July 2011

How life mirrors art

For the last four years I have volunteered as a counsellor at a small bereavement charity. I was drawn to counselling after receiving a few therapeutic sessions myself when life felt difficult about seven years ago. I qualified as a counsellor in 2008, having spent three years training at various colleges in central and South London. I find the work meaningful and rewarding, and get a lot from it. It feels important and real, and I enjoy doing something different outside of my full-time work.

The charity where I volunteer offers long-term bereavement counselling to adults for up to two years, in weekly sessions that last about an hour. Each volunteer sees two or three clients a week. In my four years with the service I have worked with eight clients, male and female, from a few months to the full two years. During these sessions a client has never brought issues relating to miscarriage or wanting a child - the work has predominantly been about the loss of a parent, partner or family member, and all the difficult feelings and thoughts that go along with such a painful loss.

Since the miscarriage I've noticed that the dynamics that have changed in my personal life have also changed in my counselling space. A client I had been seeing for about 18 months, who had never shown an interest in becoming a parent, informed me that she was beginning the IVF process in the first session we had following the short absence while I recovered from my miscarriage. My second client and I only began meeting in June - she was presenting for various family bereavements. In our last couple of sessions it has come to light that the most important issue for her has been how much she wants children.

I find it interesting to be in a position where the feelings, thoughts and concerns of my clients so closely echo my own, when with my recent experiences I can feel such strong empathy for them. I can't help but wonder about the timing... Is it just a coincidence that these two clients are bringing these issues now, when they are so parallel and coherent to my own?. Or has something changed subconsciously to allow these themes to come up at this point? It's the first time that my 'art', if you will, echoes my 'life' and I feel this is a really important stage in my counselling work. I'm working closely with my supervisor and the director of our tiny charity to make sure I am being the most effective counsellor I can be, and that my distress and anxiety is left out of the room and the client remains the focus. So far it's working well.

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