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I wanted to share a very meaningful interaction that I had with a client. I was in my first year as an LPC in the Outpatient department on campus, as well as working with the residential kiddos (individual and group therapy). Sierra, who was very depressed and had such low motivation for change, shown by not even directing our sessions for what interventions would help her the most. I would always bring several activities to explore feelings and facilitate processing of her strengths, etc., but after a while, I began to feel that I was doing a majority of the work. I wanted to support her efforts to work towards change.

After a very trying boys’ group (chairs had been thrown, kids were climbing on top of tables – just general chaos), I met with Sierra and I was unprepared with interventions. I was not present, and I felt frustrated as she, once again, did not know what she wanted to talk about or work on. My irritability with the group influenced my frustration with the lack of progress in our sessions, and I shared how our sessions needed to have more of her voice and less of mine. I felt guilty about that conversation; I felt that I should have grounded myself after the boys’ group and not allowed that interaction to color my session with Sierra. I definitely think that the conversation should have happened, but I wish it had not been driven by a trying group experience. However, after that session, I noticed that she began to lead the sessions more by asking for certain interventions (she liked when we practiced mindful painting to music, which would help her to feel relaxed to share and process her week).

Fast forward to my leaving the department and transferring the client to another therapist. In our last session, Sierra surprised me with the most meaningful interaction that I have ever had with a client. She waited to the end of our session and said that she had wanted to give me something. She had looked up giving gifts to counselors and learned that we couldn’t accept presents of value. She found an old key at home and bought a chain at some shop for a few cents. This she gifted me and explained that it represented the key to her heart. She explained that she had not let anyone into her thoughts and feelings as much as she had let me. I was sobbing. This moment taught me so much. How much we touch a person’s heart is hard to evaluate at times, but it should never be doubted. Our work is so important and the connections we develop are so valuable. Remembering that experience is what I draw upon whenever I have a client who seems to be struggling with motivation. They may not know what they want to change or whether they can change, but I know I can provide them with a positive and unconditional connection. The key swings from my rearview mirror, and I think of Sierra almost daily as I send a positive thought in her direction out into the universe.

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