As I dive into the world of technology, I feel overwhelmed and often lost. I am fortunate to have a “technology mentor”, who not only has gently urged me into this world, but has also kept me sane as I near completion of grad school. I am a product of the middle 1960’s, so the internet was born well after I was. When the internet appeared, I was busy with teenaged children, and my job did not involve computers, much less the world wide web. I could not imagine that I might ever need to keep up with this new world that I couldn’t (and still kind of don’t) understand. Well life changed, and I found myself in college at the tender age of 39. I managed to muddle through my associate’s and bachelor’s degrees, with the limited knowledge I had about the internet and Word. My son assisted me then, but admittedly I was resistant, stubborn, and convinced that I was going to bring the entire internet crashing down around me with one wrong mouse click. I was not excited about the endless learning potential that the internet provides; rather I found it confusing and could never seem to locate what I was looking for. Then I entered grad school for Mental Health Counseling. By this time, I was fairly comfortable using the internet to find research, shop, and write papers, so I thought I was good to go. You’ll be shocked to hear that I was wrong. As I near the end of grad school (4 academic classes, practicum and internship left), I am extremely aware of how important the internet will be in my future. Networking is essential for furthering my career, and online counseling is growing and gaining favor. It became imperative to know how to negotiate this new world. I had no idea where to begin, but my “mentor” did. My first step was Linkedin, which is now my favorite social media site. We discussed blogging, but I was sure that I didn’t have time for this. Plus, who cares what I am thinking or feeling?
I figured I would give it a try; if nothing else it would give me a way to get my thoughts and feelings out, and possibly learn something about myself. I had nothing to lose, except time.
My “technology mentor” has been more than patient and supportive while teaching me this unknown territory. He has graciously taken his limited free time to help me navigate social media. He has gently encouraged me to publish a blog, assisted me in formatting it, and then was kind enough to give me my first “like”. Who doesn’t feel good when others “like” them?
In counseling, I will meet clients who are aware they need to change, but like me, are resistant and stubborn to learning a new way to be. I will need to allow them to contemplate change until THEY are ready to actually make changes. I think this will be a difficult aspect of counseling. Counselors may understand that change will be advantageous for clients, but it is not our job to force changes. Clients must own the changes; if change is forced it will likely not stick, and clients may end up worse off than before counseling. We must allow clients to work at their own speed, and remain supportive throughout the process. Just as I needed much encouragement and patience to enter this new world, my clients deserve the same, no matter how long the process takes. We must discard any timetables we might have for change, and be aware that personally we may never get to see changes. Change may not occur until after clients have terminated counseling. Counseling is not about my success in assisting the clients to change, rather it is about clients feeling supported enough to change. Without my “technology mentor” I might not have felt supported enough to change my resistance and stubbornness to excitement about this new learning. As counselors, we need to be the “change mentors” for our clients; gently supporting and teaching them as they move in a new, often overwhelming, world.
It certainly never hurts to have someone in your corner cheering you on when you are experimenting with new ways of being. I would like to thank my “technology mentor” for getting me here, although some of you might prefer to hunt him down.