So, recently I learned how to ride a motorcycle. You may be wondering what on earth this has to do with counseling and I will tell you it has everything to do with counseling. I went in with the mindset that I wanted to learn for many reasons. However, one main reason was to challenge myself to try something out of my comfort zone. I realize that I preach day in and day out to people asking them to try things that are new and different for them, with the hope that by doing this they will see a change in their life.
So here I am on a cool September Saturday morning sitting on a motorcycle thinking to myself, “You could just leave and no one will get hurt,” and “Well, I guess sitting isn’t so bad, but riding…hmmm… not so sure about that.” Then the instructor tells us to start our motorcycles and “power walk” across the parking lot. “OK, that’s not so scary,” and then she says “Trust the motorcycle and pick up your feet.” I say to myself, “Um, nope, not doing that,” but I do it anyway. And it works out. I successfully cross the parking lot with no injuries. Now I’m thinking, “OK, that wasn’t so bad…what’s next?”
Counseling can be just like this. You call in anxious and scared (trust me, I was scared, so scared) to take the step to ask for help. You get an appointment scheduled. Then the day comes and you might be thinking, “What would happen if I just didn’t show up.” The answer is nothing will happen– you most likely will stay exactly the same and see no change. Then you decide, “Well, I’ll just go once” and you make the courageous step to get on the bike, I mean walk into the office. By now you may be thinking, “OK, that wasn’t so bad but I’m not sure about actually talking about anything.” Then an hour later you made it through the first session and you are riding feet up. Now what?
Back to the motorcycle riding. I had made it past those first feelings of anxiety and was starting to gain some confidence when my riding coach says, “Let’s learn how to quick stop.” And an image of me flying over the handlebars comes rushing into my head. Wait, let me get this straight, you want me to come speeding down the parking lot going about 15 mph (really fast in my mind) and then use all my appendages to come to a complete and quick stop, all while remaining upright on the bike, and not hitting anything. Now I’m really nervous and way out of my comfort zone. But since I couldn’t just run away without having a whole seven people staring at me, I just went for it. I got the bike stopped but was not really able to coordinate all those appendages the first time (or the second or the third). Even so, my coach encouraged me and challenged me. I remember exactly what she said because I say it too: “Remember you just started two hours ago. You’re not going to be an expert right away.” I remember my response because I coach people to use this all the time. “This is taking a lot of self talk.”
It does take a lot of self talk to learn and remember a new skill and use it in your daily life. It takes practice as well to learn a new skill. The same is true for counseling. Individuals come in knowing what they are doing is not working and they are unsure how to change to make things work. Through counseling we determine what skills may help. I teach the skills then ask them to practice the skills. And trust me, people are anxious and fearful to step out of their comfort zone. So clients go out and practice the skills they learned. At first it is awkward and strange and takes a lot of thinking, and sometimes they may not do it completely right the first few times. Change is hard but it can also be really rewarding.
Let me tell you about the rewards. The reward is not exploding at the guy who cuts you off in traffic. The reward is knowing how to deal with the stress life throws at you. The reward is laughing and smiling and having fun again! I really doubted if I was going to be able to learn how to ride a motorcycle. Most people who know me look at me strangely when they hear that I really did that (because it is so far out of my comfort zone). However, I kept telling myself “I can do this,” frequently reminding myself that I have done other difficult things and I can do this as well.
Please trust that I know that picking up the phone and asking for help when your life is not going well is terrifying. But also know that we help people every day and we know you are anxious. We love to help people reach their goals and come to their full potential. It’s why LSS is here. We truly believe that everyone has the power to learn and grow in new and amazing ways. We know it’s scary to step out of your comfort zone and try something different. Just know that we are here to encourage and challenge you to be the person you want to be. Call us at 1-855-334-2953 to take the first step today.
April Bolton, MA, NCC, LPC-MH, QMHP