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February 20, 2018

My Rocking Chair / My Desk

By Dr. Richard Boyum

I believe that counselors are both ordinary and extraordinary people. It is my belief that one of the places that we are most extraordinary is when we are working with clients. I often tell my clients that I am much more like them than they realize, but that when they come in to see me I do have at least on extraordinary gift that I will promise them. That of all the chairs in the world my rocking chair is the one that I pay the most attention to.

It is the chair that they sit in. When someone sits in that chair my attentiveness and consequently my responses are at a higher level than any other place that exists. This helps the individual student client know they are really involved in an experience where they are going to be heard. Listening and being acknowledged is an absolutely essential part of the human change process. I believe communicating about my belief about my rocking chair is a catalyst to individual student/client change.

My desk also on occasion becomes a tool that I utilize in my work. Once or twice a semester, which means approximately fifty to one hundred times in my career, I literally get out of my chair and climb up and on to the top of my desk during a session. While this image may sound absurd it is one of the most powerful grounding experiences that I have used with clients over the past quarter of a century. Most recently, I said to a young woman I was working with I need to tell you something that I don't want you ever to forget. It needs to stay with you for the rest of your life, but I need to do something a bit absurd or a bit silly so you will not forget this. Where upon, I got out of my chair and climbed on the top of my desk. I asked her if this was an experience that she had not had before, she relatively agreed. I then said the following words to her, "What I want you to remember from this time forward is that no one can make you feel inferior without your consent. ' This client/student's issue had been such that she had been shamed throughout most of her life. We had gotten to a point in our counseling experience that she was ready to hear these words. After having her repeat them I climbed off the top of my desk got back into my counseling chair and we finished the session.

I have had students come to me three or four years after such an experience and tell me that they never have forgotten the lesson of the day. Simple exercise/activity comes from perceptual psychology that we need to create relationships that stand out if they are going to be remembered. Consequently, a rocking chair and a desk can help make a relationship between a counselor and a student/client more meaningful.