Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Writing & Counseling

As counselor and freelance writer, I have often been asked about the connection between my two careers. On the outside the answer isn’t obvious because, among other things, I don’t write self-help books geared toward improving emotional wellness or other “mental health’ topics. So how are they related?
The short answer is that both fields are about communication and I’m all about communication. The neat thing I’ve discovered is that each field informs the other. Just as I consider the “felt needs” of my readers when I write, I have learned to address the felt needs of those I counsel. The issues they consider important might not be the ones I’d choose to address. However, it builds trust quicker and the relationship becomes more effective. In the same way that I listen attentively to my clients, I must also “listen” to my readers. Writing isn’t just about me sharing for my own benefit. My goal is to create interactive relationships, to participate meaningfully in the lives of my readers.
I was just thinking about a client who doesn’t believe she has anything useful or meaningful to contribute to those around her. She blocked any attempt to brainstorm volunteer opportunities because she doesn’t buy the premise that she is capable of helping someone. The writing phrase “show, don’t tell” occurred to me. She she’s not going to hear me tell her what her strengths are, she needs someone to show her.
There have been times I’ve felt torn between my two passions. Now I’m seeing how they can coexist and strengthen each other. Kinda cool.

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