|Posted by Stephanie Adams on April 23, 2012 at 11:45 AM|
Fear? Why fear?
I've been devouring this amazing book called, Protecting The Fear: Keeping Children And Teenagers Safe (And Parents Sane) by Gavin de Becker. It's a sort-of sequel to his bestselling book The Gift of Fear, which teaches us to trust our instincts when it comes to protecting ourselves from violence.
So, I don't have kids, and my primary market right now is emerging adults, not children or teenagers. Why am I so fascinated by this?
Because I think it focuses on two really significant principles we ALL can learn from: 1) Trust your instincts and 2) Overcome fear through knowledge and practice.
Why trust our instincts? Doesn't everybody know that? Think about it, though. We tell kids "don't talk to strangers" and then say, "don't be rude, given Mrs. So-and-so a hug back" even if the child is uncomfortable with that. We erode their natural protective instincts. It's counterproductive, but that's human politeness. Gavin writes about how parents need to teach their children that sometimes it's okay not to be "nice."
What can we as counselors learn about this, to apply to our professional safety? Don't worry about being nice when it takes away from our natural instincts. If someone makes you feel uncomfortable in a counseling session, protect yourself! If you feel manipulated by a client or a colleague, you probably are being manipulated. Think about your job, which is reading people. You are good at this, so don't let YOU talk yourself out of your feelings. Trust your instincts.
Does that mean when need to point fingers when a client is manipulating us to say, give in to their "need" for hugs, or the "need" for our personal cell phone numbers? No, there's no need to be confrontational in that situation. But it's okay to be firm and say, "that crosses a professional boundary for me."
Similarly, if a female counselor hears alarm bells when a male client continues making comments about her physical appearance, take action. Overcome fear through knowledge and practice. The best action is prevention: always have someone else in the building. Have a "panic button" in the room with you. Crack the door whenever possible. (If you have a within-office confidentiality agreement, then you are not breaking confidentiality if only the receptionist overhears you.) Talk to your colleagues about how they protect themselves and have a clear plan in place to avoid potential danger.
Don't worry about "hurting someone's feelings" when it comes to protecting yourself. First, because there are ways to do it firmly but appropriately, and secondly because you won't be any help to other clients if you have been traumatized or killed by an unstable client.
It's an important question. How do you protect yourself while on the job? Comment below - you never know. Your tip may save another new counselor's life!