Many people enjoy spending free time at the mall. Not me, well except when it is to people watch. The mall is a great place to observe people. Sadly today’s mall trip was for pants and shoes that are more work appropriate than my grad school uniforms of cords and Vans. I dread clothes shopping. Don’t get me wrong, I like buying new clothes, but the leap from shopping to buying is what I detest. It usually goes something like this: Walk around the store for at least 15 minutes trying to figure out if I am a “curvy” or “modern” fit. Give up that battle and grab 15 pairs of pants, in two different sizes of course because the size I wear at one store does not equal that size at another store, and locate the fitting room. The fitting room attendant gives me the snake eye as she indicates that I am only allowed 7 garments at one time. I dump the others somewhere close by and head to my assigned cubicle to attempt to fit in these pants. This is where I usually begin to lose it. Out of 7 pairs of pants, 1 fits. I have always had problems with pants fitting correctly. Usually they are too big in the waist, but too tight in the thighs. Set aside the pair that fits, redress in my clothes, and attempt to find my selections that were not allowed in. Unfortunately they have been returned to the racks by an over-zealous employee. Neat. Start over. Now that I know which style fits, I will grab all that are in my size. (Yes, I do that. My wardrobe is pretty much identical sweaters and pants in assorted colors.) Locate the style that fits, grab other colors, return to fitting room. Surely these pants will fit; the only difference is the color. WRONG! Put my own clothes on again, and return to square one. This cycle tends to repeat itself until I completely give up and go home. By the end of my shopping trips usually my hair is a mess, I look ten years older, and I feel bad about myself because I usually don’t have much luck finding pants that fit well.
Today was good though. I scored three pair of dress pants (that look nothing like pants I already own), and two sweaters (that look identical to sweaters I already own). I even got two pair of shoes, but I think one pair may not be any more business appropriate than my Vans. Oh well. It still feels successful.
This shopping experience got me to thinking about what it might be like for clients that are looking for a counselor. They may have to shop around to find one that fits. It is possible that the first one they try will not fit, and they might give up after trying several. They may be skeptical that they will ever find a good fit, they may feel discouraged, and may feel like something is wrong with them because they haven’t found a good fit yet. Clients may settle for something that kind of fits, but isn’t very comfortable. It is important that clients and counselors fit well together, so that effective work can be done.
Counselors need to keep this in mind when we notice that some clients have not returned following their initial session. Rather than assuming we said or did something that caused the client not to return, perhaps we should just think the fit was not correct.When I returned the ill-fitting pants back to the racks earlier, I wasn’t upset at the pants themselves, just the fit. When we don’t fit with clients, we should not be upset with ourselves or them. It is not possible to fit comfortably with every person, and fit should not be forced. It is important that we consider the client’s perspective here. Just because the counselor feels comfortable and that the fit is good, doesn’t mean the client feels the same. There are many personal factors that contribute to the client’s idea of a good fit, and these will be unknown to the counselor. This perspective may help us feel less personally responsible when clients do not return. It is important to remember that clients may just be shopping when we meet them for the first time, but if the fit is correct, they will likely return, even if it is not right away.