How Counseling is Like Steering a Ship

While creating an analogy for something completely different, I realized how much counseling is like steering a ship (side note: this is how ADHD works... this odd connection is an example of how it can be a strength!).

For this example, the ship is the journey of counseling. There are two people steering this ship, the therapist and the client. They determine together what the destination will be, the route to get there, and who may come along for the ride as a passenger. 

In counseling, the therapist and client are like co-captains.

Neither one is really the only captain, it's more like they share the responsibility at different times. When you come in for counseling, for example, the therapist takes over as captain and guides the session, checks in on how the direction is going, talks strategy, etc.

However, the therapist can't be the captain when you leave the office. That's up to you. So, you take over responsibility and make sure you're steering the ship where you've decided to go, use the strategies discussed, and decide if you need to call for back up at any time.

In the beginning, you might need to call for help more often.

Perhaps you don't feel quite ready to tackle navigating around that iceberg or that reef. Perhaps pirates are headed your way and you're not sure what to do. You call up your co-captain and they help you out.

Over time, you become more familiar with how to address these challenges and call on the co-captain less and less. Pretty soon, you're sticking to your schedules and feel comfortable handling your shift all on your own, no problem!

As with any journey, it's hard to predict what might happen in counseling.

In the first session, you decide with your therapist what your destination is; however, you both may be unaware of the hurdles along the way that will require you to change course for a bit.

You might have an unexpected problem arise that requires your immediate attention. It may only require a quick phone call or adopting a new coping skill. It doesn't impact your overall path, simply redirects your attention briefly.

Or you might have a more significant problem, like a huge reef you weren't anticipating. This requires you to take a detour and navigate through some different waters, but all still on the path to your goal.

You may even discover an undocumented island and stop there for a bit to rest or reflect. This gives you an opportunity to really focus on one aspect of your work together, without the typical distractions that other issues may bring.

In the counseling world, this might look like an extended session that allows you to focus on a topic for 2-4 hours instead of the typical 45-60 minutes. Or it may be that you decide some evaluation tools are needed to determine the best course of action moving forward. So you take time to complete those and reflect on how they relate to the longer work.

As co-captains you also get to decide who else is on the ship and what role they play.

Perhaps you have a loved one visit for a bit (like 1-2 sessions) because of their impact or expertise in one area. Or maybe you decide it's best to include a partner in the work for most of the journey. You can also decide that this journey is best with the two of you alone. It all works.

The best part about being co-captains is deciding when, and how, to end the journey.

Sometimes the journey is short, like with brief counseling, or sometimes it is longer and may last a few months. Your counselor will make recommendations and guide you, often encouraging you when they feel you're ready to move on. But however long it is, you get to decide if you're ready to move on.

If you're interested in counseling for help with ADHD or help with work stress or career choices, schedule a free phone call to see how we can work together. You can also shoot me an email by clicking here