By Dr. Dean Aslinia
Tonight, (March 12, 2018) I experienced something I don’t think I had ever experienced at this level and with this emotional intensity. Teaching my Advanced Clinical Counseling Skills class, my students requested that I do a demonstration of an individual counseling session, as I would do in my private practice.
This required a volunteer to step up and share some content (real or fake). After some hesitation of who would want to go, one of the students stepped up, pulled a chair to the front of the class and faced me. As all of the other students observed, and we got started with me initiating a question of what he’d like to focus our session on. He began discussing his fears of inadequacy or mediocrity and how he feared failing in the eyes of his children. It became clear this was no longer a fake topic, and it was a topic near and dear to his heart. I was fully aware of the students watching us and knew in order for me to make this an authentic experience for us, I needed to block them out and focus only on my “client” in front of me.
We progressed and once I had a good cognitive understanding of his situation and thoughts, I slowed the pace of our conversation, as well as my tone of voice to allow him the opportunity to slow down and emotionally process what he was sharing with me. The ensuing dance became more powerful than I would have ever expected. He allowed himself to follow and become present in the moment, and reached the depth of emotion I had not expected.
We continued until we reached some tangible takeaways for him. Once we stopped, the class seemed speechless, having just experienced what they never thought was going to be possible with this otherwise strong willed, fully cognitive, intelligent male classmate. I asked the class to share their feelings about what they had just witnessed and unanimously the entire class responded with appreciation for the courage and vulnerability their classmate had just exhibited.
That yet again, brought tears to the young man’s eyes as that was one of his fears of being perceived weak. Altogether, the experience was unlike any other I have ever had in a classroom setting. To be able to earn the trust of a person, and for them to allow their guards down, and to go that deep in front of their entire class will forever be an amazing experience for me to remember.
It is moments like this, that not only teaches students how to learn their trade, but also allows for us to touch each others’ souls that keeps me going back into the classroom even though, there is so much more money elsewhere.