ACA Blog

Apr 03, 2012

Honesty in Counseling

[caption id="attachment_4859" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Jennifer Bingaman"][/caption]

I pride myself on how honest I am. While sometimes my honesty can scare off the faint-hearted, I’m happy with that part of who I am. I’m an open book.

With that said, I’m having a hard time with my honesty in my profession. I find myself analyzing the grey area with my clients. You see, I’m not lying to them, I’m just omitting things. Mainly, I’m not telling them what I think their problem really is.

You see, I’m counseling addicts; people who are notorious for low self-awareness and “stinking thinking”. They come to me and we talk about the need to work on their addiction. I take the approach of addressing them from my own theoretical orientation along with things I know have been proven effective – motivational interviewing and a stages of change conceptualization.

Clients also have issues outside of just using. It’s incredibly rare that a client had a happy and picturesque life and then just picked up a crack pipe one day. Usually, they have family issues, self-esteem issues, or trauma in their past.

I never bring these things up. I never just blurt out (as I would in my personal reality of honesty), “Oh, you have daddy issues!”

No, that would be inappropriate.

Instead, I feel like I lure them in. I lay breadcrumbs down. I watch and listen to them take my bait. They start to see what I’m saying. They start to bring up the issue without my prompting.

It’s effective. We’re working on the underlying issues.

At the same time I wonder about the breadcrumbs. I struggle between a vision of someone laying down food for the hungry and the evil witch from Hansel and Gretel. I don’t want to be an evil witch! I want to be a good witch. All sparkly and pink like from the Wizard of Oz. I want to lead my clients down the yellow brick road to happiness and a life without using.

In my heart of hearts, I know I’m doing the right thing for my profession. It’s just strange because I feel this “right thing” bump against my “own thing” – direct honesty. I know I can’t just tell a client what I’m thinking their issue is right out of the gates. It would be completely ineffective. I’d be giving advice instead of providing guidance. I’d become an authority as opposed to a comrade. It’s weird having these revelations as I ease into my own professional identity, but I’m so glad I’m having the opportunity to face them down in my internship. I’m still learning so much about myself, about my profession, and about my clients. Let’s hope I end up as the good witch.



Jennifer Bingaman is a counselor-in-training and freelance writer. She blogs about her experiences as a client and a counselor with a few life musings thrown into the mix at The Pursuit of Sassiness

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