Part of our Counselor’s Corner series. Click to read other posts in the Counselor’s Corner.
For the past year and a half I have been attending counseling supervision and working toward becoming a licensed professional counselor (LPC). I meet with my LPC supervisor, Jason, for two hours most weeks and have the opportunity to discuss cases and receive feedback from him. I highly value this time; it helps me grow as a counselor and as a person.
Last week, though, as I pulled into the parking lot, I was dreading supervision for the first time.
It had been a few weeks since Jason and I had met. I felt awkward and uneasy sitting in the chair across from him. When he asked how things were going, I vented about frustrations I was having with a few different situations.
After that, I didn’t know what else to say. I knew what was coming next.
“There has been a lot going on for you lately. How are you doing?” Jason inquired.
The tears came. I fought to hold them back, but I couldn’t any longer.
The sadness, frustration, shock, and feelings of being overwhelmed poured out of me. I had recently experienced multiple tragedies and many trying situations, including the death of a student and the death of one of my professors from graduate school. In difficult times, I have to be there and be strong for my students, teachers, and other staff. During this difficult period, I had not taken any time to deal with my own hurt and pain.
I knew I was avoiding my own feelings, which was the reason I was dreading supervision so much. I knew I could not hide from my feelings if someone else inquired about them. I knew that I would have to confront them.
Jason told me about the “feeling frogs” he has in his counseling office. The paper feeling frogs have different emotions written on them, such as happy, sad, brave, angry, calm, and afraid. If you’re mad you hold the angry frog. If you’re sad you hold the sad frog.
Sometimes, however, you need all the frogs.
Jason said he often tells students, “It’s okay to hold all the frogs,” meaning it is okay to be there and be present with all different kinds of emotions. It’s okay to acknowledge those emotions and experience them.
This really hit me. Recently, I had been purposefully avoiding how I was feeling to get through the day. I was not okay with the emotions I was feeling. I was hiding from them. I buried them deep down in a place where I would have to dig to access them. I was afraid of what would happen if I uncovered them.
Jason’s story about the frogs was exactly what I needed. I visualized myself holding the frogs in my hands. I can imagine the experience of actually holding the frogs would be very powerful for a student dealing with situations that bring up various emotions.
We need to take time to hold the frogs—be with our feelings and acknowledge them.
Self-care has been a journey for me. I have gotten much better at taking care of myself and my emotions. Being a school counselor, an educator, a parent (really anyone who works with people for a living!) can be an emotionally draining job. We often neglect our own emotional needs so that we are able to support others in their time of need. However, that is not sustainable. To best be able to help others, we must care for ourselves.
Suggestions for self-care:
- Talk to a colleague in the same profession. Sometimes people in other fields don’t “get” the work we do. It can be helpful to talk to someone who understands your situation and what you are going through. I can’t stress enough the importance of having people to lean on, vent to, consult with, or seek supervision from.
- Do what you enjoy! Read, play or watch sports, cook, exercise, watch a movie, travel, sleep, meditate, enjoy or create humor, garden, do relaxation exercises, admire or create art, enjoy or create music, or do anything else you find pleasing or relaxing.
- Schedule self-care. If self-care is not something you are good at taking for yourself, schedule it. Make time in your day or week to do something for yourself.
How do you deal with stress or difficult situations? What do you do to care for yourself, relax, de-stress, or unwind?
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Suggested Resources for Professionals
Thriving! A Manual for Students in the Helping Professions by Lennis G. Echterling, Eric Cowan, William F. Evans, A. Renee Staton, J. Edson McKee, Jack Presbury, and Anne L. Stewart
“The Importance of Self-Care” by Rhonda Williams, Ed.D., LPC, NCC, in the American School Counselor Association School Counselor Magazine.