In most other human relationships there’s usually more than one agenda at work. But in counselling there is only one – to bring a greater sense of inner strength and peace.”, so says Jim Clarke, one of CancerCare’s team of counsellors.
Jim has spent ten years working with people who have cancer, or their loved ones. Like all his colleagues he brings total commitment to this difficult but valuable role.
The CancerCare counselling role offers a way to explore and discuss the changes cancer has brought into client’s lives with a supportive and understanding listener. Whilst every counselling relationship is unique, there are some things that never vary.
The Counselling room is always a safe haven of absolute confidentiality where clients can explore issues they may not feel able to discuss with family or friends. They can express sorrow, fear, bewilderment, anxiety, guilt, regret or anger – whatever emotions and feelings are affecting them.
And they are always assured of totally non-judgemental support as they work through the issues confronting them.
Counselling is not about providing answers or advice – as Jim explains:
“I think of it as a pair of us going on a journey together, we may not know precisely where we are going, but we know the general direction. There may be some dark forests and times when we have to climb mountains, but there’ll always be some softer pastures. Sometimes we’ll get lost and have to backtrack to find a better direction. But all the time we’re on the journey we’re sharing and discussing, and getting to understand the problems together. It’s my client’s journey, but I’m alongside to help however I can, by listening and reflecting back.”
“It can be helpful to look at problems in every way possible, with a view to understanding why we feel like we do. We can examine issues around the situations which have arisen and slowly but surely move towards a better place from where we started.”
“You can very quickly get into some of the heaviest things that human beings talk about, and you could say for two strangers that’s odd. But we therapists are not part of our clients lives in any other way which is a great help. So we can often work at a more intense level.”
Like many CancerCare staff, Jim arrived at his current role as a natural development of a career in caring and supporting. In addition to working as an NHS counsellor, he was for many years the minister for a mission church helping the poorest members of society, which brought him into contact with a wide variety of human experiences:
“Working in a church involved marriages, funerals and christenings. That sort of work takes you to the heart of a family, and I became used to dealing with emotions of that kind. It was very much a natural step to take up the challenge of working in an acute cancer field, where, as a therapist you are operating on the boundaries of existential material.”
“We are often working with people who are in extremis, helping them to gain clarity around what’s happened, and maybe greater peacefulness and sanity. It’s almost a case of making the impossible possible, by bringing hope and sharing that with them. It’s like looking at the situation through different lenses and making some sense of what has happened and is happening to them.”
“One needs to be ‘human’, to be a good listener, to be truly emphatic and compassionate. It’s a real challenge, professionally and personally to cope with this kind of work in a concentrated fashion. But it is also a real privilege, of sharing, closely and deeply – over a period of time you really get to know someone through sharing their deep trouble and being able to make a difference. It’s intensely human, yet there are times when I’ve experienced a hint of otherness in the room, as though there is another force at work, maybe a symbiosis of love and compassion – real spirituality,”
“The counselling relationship only works if there is an absolute rapport, a relationship of trust – that is vital, whatever your beliefs. But sometimes you also reach a point where there is a sense of something which is beyond words – sacred, perhaps. This kind of work lends itself to that possibility.”
Counselling offers the chance to be a listened to at the deepest possible level. We all need to be heard, never more so than when we are facing the challenge of cancer in our own lives or those we love.
We owe enormous thanks to those who fund our work, allowing CancerCare to offer their clients counselling support when they most need it.
If you, or anyone you know are affected by cancer and would like more information about counselling services then contact:
Tel: 01524 381 820
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