Counselor self-care: Living with intention

We’re here in Louisiana! And I got a giant hint from the universe on my first night here:

A giant hint.

Thanks, Magic Hat. I agree, so let’s get this blog going again!

Helping me out on the writing is the fact that I’m currently unemployed. After a really, really busy summer of classes, work, and moving, unemployment isn’t the worst thing ever. I have some time to catch my breath by applying for jobs, working at my internship, getting a head start on classes, writing, and reading while sitting by the pool. It’s lovely!

With all this time and literally 1,082 miles between me and my school, I’ve finally started to process the big-picture themes I’ve pulled from my practicum experience. Up first: Living and doing with intention. Our professors hammer this into us from the beginning of Techniques of Counseling, but counseling is an awful lot like learning an instrument. At first, you’re just barely holding on with the few notes you know, with little control over the finer details like dynamics or articulation. Over time, you’re able to control your playing much better, and can follow the musical line and make it your own. You play with intention.

Just a few semesters ago, I was wandering around in the dark with my first (very brave) volunteer client. I felt lucky to make it to the end of our very loooooonnngggg 50 minutes together. It was like elementary school band all over! This semester, I felt more like I was in freshman band–able to use my skills fairly proficiently, but not always having the greatest reason why. Maybe by the time I graduate, I’ll be somewhere around college freshman level?

Our practicum professors challenged us to both practice and live with intention. In counseling, this means doing things very deliberately in order to be the most effective counselor for the client, or at least doing things deliberately in order to see if they work or not. In life, doing things deliberately keeps us moored and gives us meaning and purpose in our days. We’re not just going through the motions, but instead choosing wisely how we spend our time.

At the end of the semester, we completed a short personal wellness assessment and were asked to name two goals based on the results. Our professors challenged us to change a vague goal like “Exercise more” into something concrete, like “Walk 30 minutes a day.” Incidentally, this was one of my personal goals, along with “Go to church more often.” (Yes, I know that’s not concrete…but the best I could do. I plan on writing more about this later.)

I’ve only been in Baton Rouge a week, but I’m pretty pleased with myself for living intentionally so far. I wake up every day and decide how I’m going to structure the day and what needs to be done. It’s a little different than the to-do lists that I’m famous for making and then stressing out over. With no job, I could really easily give in to depression or laziness, but setting my intentions for the day has helped me find some purpose and motivation. And I’ve been keeping up both of my class goals so far, as well as writing more!

I think counselors help clients do the same thing in many cases. We help our clients set goals and then meet them. We help them become more deliberate and analytical in their interactions with others and in their own thoughts and behaviors. Self-awareness can help create intention, and without either, we’re all just wandering in the dark, groping for the light switch!

Hopefully, I’ll have a job soon. In the meantime, I’ll practice intention in order to give my days some meaning–and plan to keep that up once I finally do start working.

How do you live intentionally?

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