The Counsellor’s Door is Closed, And They’re Not Counselling. What Gives?
I apologize to all serious readers of my previous articles. Some of you have kindly commented on the information found therin—information that is intended to help you research counselling and psychotherapy, get more out of counselling, understand your rights in counselling and otherwise provide information about many aspects of counselling and counsellors that can be hard to find.
But this article is a little, dare I say, frivolous. And maybe even disappointing because ancillary counselling activities are not that scintillating.
I will admit to that from time to time over the years, I’ve gotten “the look,” which I would describe as a mix of raised eyebrows, a slightly furrowed brow and a a half-smile. Questions and comments like “what is going on in there?” or “I heard you banging around in there,” have been asked of me.
My filing cabinet is the usual culprit. It’s a lovely, functioning artifact, circa 1960, which was painted and gifted to me when I started Willow Tree Counselling in downtown Vancouver in 2009. Money was very tight back then, coming off of a lean maternity leave, and I was very happy to accept any and all gifts and offers of help when it came to furnishing my office. And there was a bonus: the thing had a key, amazing for something so old, which is essential for keeping files confidential and secure.
I never upgraded this filing cabinet because of its mid-century charm which, for those who know my office, speaks to some of its other furnishings. But my filing cabinet has a problem: it sounds as old as it is, its birth long before the glide-y cabinets of today. All of this means that whenever I open and close it, it sounds like I’m working in a coal mine, creaking and heaving with every open and shut maneuver, with worse rumblings if the key refuses to turn.
The only thing rivalling this sound would be my often-discussed laugh or alternatively, my mini vac, which I use to vacuum the couch, chair and places where the cleaner has missed.
The Nitty Gritty
Lots happens behind the counsellor’s closed door when they’re not in session, most of it unexciting, but essential when it comes to running a counselling practice. These are also things to think about for those interested in becoming a counsellor in private practice. Let’s take a look!
- Writing counselling assessments and progress notes. Note taking not only has a practical function of keeping the counsellor on track with each client’s therapy, but is also part of the practice standards for regulated or registered counselling professions
- Returning phone calls and email messages
- Researching links and resources to supplement clients’ therapy
- Engagement in professional development activities (registered social workers in BC have to complete and document 40 hours a year), documenting these activities and liaising with my professional college
- Updating my Reduced Cost Counselling List for Metro Vancouver
- Consultation with professional colleagues
- Counselling-related readings
- Writing letters requested by clients
- Completing clinical paperwork requested by clients or contracted agencies
- Printing and filing notes
- Making up files
- Archiving inactive files (registered social workers must archive files for a period of 7 years after last contact with a client)
- Responding to receipt verifications from insurance companies; writing receipts and issuing duplicate receipts upon request
- Updating website and links, problem solving website issues
- Ordering office supplies and refreshments
- Re-stocking (especially tea and tissues!)
- Light housekeeping, addressing building issues
- Paying rent and other bills
- Billing paperwork for contracted clients
- Sorting through mail and recycling
- Washing dishes
- Appointment bookings and rescheduling
- Changing batteries and lightbulbs
- Sending appointment reminders
- Organizing Welcome packages for new clients
- Generating ideas and writing articles for willowtreecounselling.ca
- Publishing my newsletter, The Listening Ear
- Renewing directory listings
- Researching new systems to increase efficiency of delivery of service
- Eating lunch or snacks
- Contacting loved ones/seeking support from friends
- Answering personal email
- Making personal appointments
- Resting or daydreaming
- Occasionally knitting or meditating
- Reading something interesting or funny
- Drinking enough water
So yes, it’s nothing exciting or unusual when I’m alone, behind my closed door. Perhaps I’m unique because I used to wonder what my previous therapists were up to when their counselling door was closed; if you too have ever wondered, now you know!
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