Sitting across from me in my counselling room is a young man who twirls a thread, dangling from the knee of his jeans, as he stares uncomfortably down at the carpet. When he’s done with that he absent-mindedly pulls at the hairs on his arm, not that long ago they were pale and downy but recently they darkened and became coarser.
There are a million other places he’d rather be than sitting and talking to a child and adolescent counsellor, but “Tom” (not his real name) has reluctantly agreed to come because he’s tired of how he feels. He’s sick of being asked what’s wrong and would tell them, if only he knew himself. Sure, he gets that exams are stressful and the kids at school can be d%*#heads sometimes, but there is more to it than that. Only it’s hard to tackle it, when you don’t yet know, what it is.
And whilst I sit with him, witness to his anguish and vulnerability, I am profoundly aware of the strength it has taken for this young person to simply turn up today. Coming to counselling is an act of bravery. To commit to a process, to change how your life feels, is seriously admirable. For some, the amount of courage that needs to be summoned to speak with a therapist can be huge. And during the tumultuous teenage years, the decision to ‘give it a go’, I believe is even more commendable.
However, it never ceases to amaze me how that risk pays off. As the therapeutic rapport grows, we gently explore that which we have ignored, suppressed or denied. In time this affords us incredible liberation as we gain a greater sense of control over how we deal with our experiences and relationships. The sense of relief at moving through depression, anxiety, loss, grief, compulsive behaviours or anger, can be life changing.
Counselling can be hard work; no doubt about it and having concerns about how that might feel is perfectly understandable. But hang in there because the discomfort is worth it.
I have enormous respect for Tom finding the courage to show up for therapy and I admire his trust in the process. Together, we work to make the experience of counselling, worth the risk he took.
(Specialising in working with children & adolescents, Megan Rees, works from her practice The Grove Counselling, located in the Melbourne bayside suburb of St Kilda East .)
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