Ways I Show up in Counseling… In the Therapist’s Chair
All therapists are human and therefore have different personalities that show up in the counseling room. This makes us all unique in terms of what we offer and how we may or may not match up with what you’re needing as a client. For example, here are 5 ways my personality shows as a counselor:
If you know my specialty (geeks, gamers, and misfits) this will come as little surprise. I am a geek in my own ways, including but not limited to “dad jokes,” appreciation for stickers, coloring books, inability to articulate idioms, wishing I could still Trick or Treat, treasure hunts, and also counseling interventions that are sometimes corny. But hey, I promise I wouldn’t be suggesting them if I thought they didn’t work.
#2 Socially Awkward
Sometimes I notice myself not being able to catch my breath in session especially when a client’s anxiety is through the roof. Co-regulation is a thing in therapy that involves our bodies tuning in to each other and happens before we can even think to talk about it. So, when a socially anxious client comes in my nervous system picks up on that. Of course this takes me a little longer to realize it is happening because it’s something that I’ve struggled with personally. Once I do it’s up to me and the therapeutic moment to decide to self-regulate “covertly” or to bring it in to the room (aka talk directly about it).
#3 Sarcasm and Dark Humor
Oh yeah. It’s hard to get rid of this muscle once you’ve spent so much time exercising it. Thus, when a client comes at me with something that’s appallingly awful as a joke sometimes I can’t help but laugh even though they sort of teach you in counseling school to call people out on diffusing situations with humor. I’ve learned to go ahead and laugh then call you out- it’s been working for me so far.
So self-disclosure is something that counselors at large take different sides on. Mostly I tend to do less self-disclosure in session. I’ve received feedback from folks about previous counselors disclosing too much, and in general I just feel like counseling is the one hour that is focused on you so why eat it up listening to a counselor’s stories. I won’t lie, sometimes it throws people off and they find themselves wanting to know more about me to see if I’m a real person. I totally get that! We adjust accordingly.
Most therapists will advocate for the idea of balance. Thoughts, behaviors, and feelings are all part of the picture of an individual, right? We all sort of have a default as far as which of the three we lean in to and mine happens to be thought, aka intellectualizing problems. I’ve found the shift to exploring feelings extremely helpful so I do incorporate emotions into therapy, but I fall into the trap of “thinking about depression” rather than feeling depression by tuning into the body.
As a profession we’ve come a long way from being trained to be “blank slates” and having folks lay down on a couch to turn away from the counselor so they can’t read the expressions on the counselor’s face.
These days more of a focus is on the relationship itself in counseling as a microcosm of the real world. This street goes both ways too! After all, how we’re interacting is a huge clue into what you’re dealing with in your own relationships. That’s right, we are always watching… but in a compassionate, gentle, and curious way.
If you’re a counselor, what ways do you show up in the counseling room?
If you’re in counseling, have you noticed that you prefer certain personality traits in your counselors?
If you’re interested in learning more, you can email me here and I’d be happy to answer any questions. I am accepting new clients in South Austin at this time, so I’d be happy to set up a free 30-minute consultation with you.
Julia Stamman, LPC
Hi, I’m Julia! I’m an LPC (licensed professional counselor) practicing in South Austin. I understand the personal importance of a therapist groking my lifestyle, so I started helping others who identify as geeks, gamers, and/or misfits. Over time, I realized that I’m passionate about attachment-related trauma, social anxiety, and neurodiversity. On this blog, I write on topics like the overlap of alternative culture and mental health, and how to find services catered to these lifestyles.