Paying Attention

There is a great deal to be learned about being a counselor. We are constantly learning more. . . . Yet perhaps ninety percent of good counseling is simply paying attention to the client. This is where we begin, and this remains our most powerful counseling tool, the basis to which all other techniques are added.

Paying attention is more than just listening, though we must surely listen, and listen awarely. Our eyes, our glance must be available for the client to contact when his or her eyes seek it. We need to be thinking about the client, about what the client is doing and the client is feeling, from the client’s point of view, with her or his goals in mind—not from our own viewpoint or our own restimulation. If we are in physical contact with the client, we note and respond to changes in muscle tone, in posture, in temperature.

We need to pay attention with expectancy. If we expect the client to have a flash answer, to begin to discharge, to take or hold a direction, it makes it much more possible for her or him to do so. Our confident expectance that the client will be able to make the necessary response will be of enormous assistance to him or her in doing so.

Pay attention with delight. The client is usually beset by negative feelings. Our delight in him or her, conveyed by facial expression and tone of voice, will contradict the distress and support the human. This is even more important when the client is exhibiting hostile or abusive patterns that appear to be directed at the counselor. (This is also crucial with distressed people in situations that are not overtly counseling situations.) The counselor’s delight, undimmed by the hostile behavior, will throw the pattern into complete confusion.

Our delight is, of course, completely justified. Our delight is not in the pattern but in the pattern’s victim, the human being—the most complex and elegant entity, within our knowledge, that the universe has evolved. We should correctly attribute any superficial offensiveness to a distress pattern and maintain our delight in the person, thus multiplying many times our effectiveness as counselors.

We furnish the insistence from outside that topples the tense resistance of the pattern over into dissolution—the quick, eager, insistent “Again” when the client’s voice signals the imminence of discharge.

We furnish the persistence that enables the distress to be discharged exhaustively, to be cleaned up completely. “Let’s go over it one more time,” after the fifty-seventh recounting, is necessary or the client would be driven by the remaining distress to leave the scene before the battle was finally won.

With insistence and persistence, with expectancy and delight, with patience and confidence, we pay warm interested attention to that remarkable human being, our client, and see the healing, restoring processes of discharge and re-evaluation sweep her or him to that future of complete re-emergence that waits for us also.

Harvey Jackins*

From pages 177 to 179 of “Keep in Touch with
the Basics of Counseling,” in The Upward Trend

Harvey—Paying Attention—Counseling Practice—PT 196, July 2019

Last modified: 2024-02-22 15:17:13+00