As part of my development am volunteering at a Youth counselling agency. Last week had a second session with a young lady, during which we discussed her coming holiday plans. After I was asked if I was going on holiday this year. Now a strict psycho-dynamic counsellor would have no doubt avoided answering that question directly. Working from a person-centred perspective I answered “Yes”, which lead to “Where?” Here again others may have pushed the question aside. I simply replied I would be helping run a church youth camp. This led to another question:
“Which Church do you go to?”
After putting put several Churches forward, none of which were correct, I told the client which church I attended:
“The Mormon Church – The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”
The client replied she’d never heard of the Church.
I was a bit concerned of about how she would feel, regarding sitting in front of a member of a Christian church, having earlier expressed no particular faith herself, though her family and friends are of various faiths – Baptist, Catholic and Muslim.
Answer was, she felt good, that she did not feel judged at all.
Should I have somehow deflected her questions or answered them as I did? Was I not keeping appropriate boundaries? From the person-centred perspective, I feel, yes I should have answered as I did, with this particular client, who was able to accept my answer. I feel trust would have been broken if I had avoided the issue. Another client may have felt more threatened or judged by my answers, wondering how a Christian would feel towards a person of no particular faith. For me, boundaries were not broken. Others may disagree.
For me, the way to be in the session came from the three core conditions (empathy, unconditional positive regard and congruence) that Carl Rogers proposed, especially the third, congruence. If I had hidden my Church there would have been no congruence and I feel strongly the client would have felt and known that.