Paul Cockayne – 07791 970406 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Welcome to my counselling blog. You can find more information about me by clicking one of the links at the top of this page
People come to counselling for many reasons, but a common one is that they are stuck. But what does that mean? It seems to me that there are two main sorts of “stuck” – confused-stuck and immobilised-stuck.
I had the great pleasure of visiting New York recently, where, on one occasion, I found myself confused, but not immobilised.
The grid system of Streets running East-West and Avenues running North-South makes it, on the whole, easy to find your way around, but on one occasion I emerged from a subway station to find that I had no idea which way to go. The problem was that I didn’t know which way was North and which South, and on a cloudy day, there was no sun to tell me the answer. The only way to find out was to walk a block and then turn around if I’d gone the wrong way. (In fact I didn’t do this, but instead asked a passer-by, who gave me the wrong answer!).
In the second world war, signposts were removed, or turned round, in country areas, as a preparation for invasion to confuse Germans. Putting sugar in their petrol tanks would, on the other hand, have been a way of immobilising them.
When my clients are “confused-stuck” they tend to find it difficult to explain their situation. They can recount events but will tend to flit around in time, sandwiching things that happened last week with things from years ago, for example. They will tend to repeat themselves, or interrupt themselves – not finishing one sentence before they start the next.
Clients who are “immobilised-stuck”, on the other hand, tend to be able to explain their situation very clearly. Events are described in chronological sequence, the issues are explained, and often their story contains a lot of detail. They will have a clear idea of how events have followed each other – that A has caused B, and that has caused C – and their choices will be clear.
Often clients arrive at counselling in the “confused-stuck” state and it can take a few sessions before their story starts to become clearer, and it is possible to tell what is really important and what is not. Working with “confused-stuck” clients tends to take time, but progress tends to be steady – each week that passes tends to show a change. It is as if their thoughts are whirring round in their head, so fast that they cannot grasp them – but that the process of counselling gradually slows down the whirring, until things start to become clearer.
When clients arrive “immobilised-stuck”, work can be much quicker. Sometimes, just by verbalising their story, the answer becomes obvious to them. “Now I know what to do!”. Sometimes as a counsellor I am able to suggest a slightly different way of looking at things, of thinking about things, that can mobilise the client again. So it can happen that after just one session, these clients feel able to move forward, to take the next steps – and so they may never need to return for a second session.
Sometimes, however, “immobilised-stuck” clients can be the most difficult to work with. This can happen when their story – which is coherent and well organised – is incomplete. (Imagine trying to drive your car if you don’t realised it’s been clamped). If there is something they’ve overlooked, or forgotten about, or are in denial about, the rest of the story may not really make sense. Their story may be incomplete, or just wrong – and this may leave them immobilised, unable to make a decision, unable to identify the changes that are right for them. Working with these clients can take a long time, because the missing pieces of the story may be difficult to find – or the client may not want to admit to the importance of certain events in their story.
What is true for all these clients, whatever sort of “stuck” they are – is that the process of counselling is helpful. They cannot unstick themselves on their own.
In New York, emerging from the subway, I needed some external help – if the sun had come out, or if I had walked a block, or if a passer-by had given me the right information, or if I had gone back down into the subway station to look at the signs –any of those things, would have been enough to unstick me. But I couldn’t do it on my own.