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February 20, 2018

All That Jazz... A Counseling Metaphor

By Dr. Richard Boyum

I often like to think of the counseling process as a musical jazz idiom. The tune or story is never the same. Nobody plays the same tune the same way if you are a jazz musician. Most stories that a client tells are never the same regardless of the issues. The client, their social environment, the counselor and the timing of the telling all create a metaphor for jazz.

Good counselors know that each time the story is told, you are looking for subtle differences. Family abuse and depression may have their main theme, but it is the subtleties that make for a real understanding of the tune/story and the satisfactory resolution of the problem. This is very different than western classical music. The goal in classical music is to play the tune the same way every time. If, as counselors, we think in terms of “all that jazz”, rather than the more traditional/classical model, the counseling session becomes not only more satisfying, but more elegant and productive as well.

Think about this the next time that you jam with one of your clients. Listen for the theme. Let them play the solo. As a counselor be the best accompaniest that you can. The tune, in some ways, will sound similar but it is always like nothing you have ever heard before. When we jazz up our sessions, we are doing the work of good counselors and good therapists.