When Karena Heyward and Jessica Lloyd-Hazlett were enrolled in graduate school together at the College of William & Mary, they agreed to split the cost of a hotel room while attending the American Counseling Association’s annual conference. The two counselors didn’t know each other very well, but over the course of the weekend they found themselves engaging in long, authentic conversations about their lives. Returning home, they reflected on the topic of vulnerability, and the two began to build a friendship based on helping each other through difficult moments in the counseling profession and life in general.
A client comes in for his first counseling session. He has a carrot sticking up his nose and a banana in his left ear.
“Help!” the client cries. “Can you tell me what’s wrong with me?”
“Simple,” the counselor says calmly. “You’re not eating properly.”
Laughter is an essential part of the human experience, so it’s no coincidence that a profession that tries to make sense of the complexity and absurdity of human nature occasionally finds itself the butt of a joke or the punch line of a comic strip. In its ongoing quest to be “taken seriously,” however, the counseling profession seemingly sometimes forgets that humor can be a key component of wellness and even the therapeutic relationship.
The profession’s squeamishness with jokes arguably can be traced back to the image problem that psychotherapy has in the media, with TV show counselors often portrayed as zany bohemian personalities in offices full of waterfalls and wind chimes. If Tracey Ullman as Ally McBeal’s karaoke-singing shrink and Lisa Kudrow on her Web Therapy comedy series have served as our ambassadors to the world, then no wonder we’re so nervous.
This past May, I stumbled out of my university’s basement counseling clinic and into the sunlight. The unremitting winter had spanned my work as a doctoral intern as I supervised master’s students, counseled clients and conducted administrative work. For the sum total of zero dollars and zero cents. Read more
Imagine you are a counselor educator sitting down to read the morning paper and find a mug shot of one of your counseling students on thefront page. Or perhaps while attempting to complete an assignment for a substance abuse course, one of your students attends an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and steals the spotlight by impersonating someone struggling with alcoholism. Or maybe in your family counseling course, a particular student insists on regaling the class with endless stories about his parents’ harrowing divorce.