If we do not engage in this kind of self exploration

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If we do not engage in this kind of self-exploration, we increase the danger of losing ourselves in our clients and using them to meet our unfulfilled needs. Developing a Sense of Humor Therapy is a responsible matter, but it need not be deadly serious. Both clients and counselors can enrich a relationship by laughing. I have found that humor and tragedy are closely linked and that after allowing ourselves to feel some ex periences that are painfully tragic, we can also genuinely laugh at how seriously we have taken our situation. We secretly delude ourselves into believing we are unique—that we are alone in our pain and we alone have experienced the
32 PART ONE BASIC ISSUES IN COUNSELING PRACTICE tragic. What a welcome relief when we can admit that pain is not our exclu sive domain. It is important to recognize that laughter or humor does not mean that work is not being accomplished. There are times, of course, when laughter is used to cover up anxiety or to escape from the experience of facing threatening material. The therapist needs to distinguish between humor that distracts and humor that enhances the situation. Sharing Responsibility With the Client You will probably struggle with finding the optimum balance in sharing re sponsibility with your clients. One mistake is to assume full responsibility for the direction and outcomes of therapy. This will lead to taking from your clients the rightful responsibility they need if they are to become empowered by making their own decisions. It could also increase the likelihood of your early burnout. Another mistake is for you to refuse to accept the responsibil ity for making accurate assessments and designing appropriate treatment plans for your clients. How responsibility will be shared should be addressed at the beginning of the therapeutic relationship. Early during the course of counseling, it is your responsibility to discuss specific matters such as length and overall duration of the sessions, confidentiality, general goals, and meth ods used to achieve goals. (Informed consent is discussed in Chapter 3.) It is important to be alert to your clients’ efforts to get you to assume re sponsibility for directing their lives. Many clients seek a “magic answer” as a way of escaping the anxiety of making their own decisions. Yet it is not your role to assume responsibility for directing your clients’ lives. Collaboratively designing contracts and homework assignments with your clients can be in strumental in your clients increasingly finding direction from within them selves. Perhaps the best measure of our effectiveness as counselors is the degree to which clients are able to say to us, “I appreciate what you have been to me, and because of your faith in me, I am confident that I can go it alone.” Eventually, if we are effective, we will be out of business!

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