Being part of Dr. Faizal’s class is like being welcomed into a sacred space. I immediately felt warm and safe; like I knew everyone in my Counselling Therapist class for a long time and was everyone’s cheerleader for being better people, and they were mine! Now close to the end of the 88-week program, the students are intimately aware of each other’s personalities and emotional triggers. They know exactly which comment will send which classmate into giggles of laughter, or which topic will turn whose cheeks red. They’re openly vulnerable—their classroom is a warm cocoon where it is easy to be honest about one’s insecurities, weaknesses, personal prejudices, and preconceived notions of right and wrong. Here is a Day in the life of a Counselling Student.
Dr. Faizal’s teaching style
Everything we discussed in class was with the right intention: to help or to identify how to help those who needed it most. With this intention set, it was easy to discuss any subject matter, even if it was a controversial topic. Nothing was taboo. No scenario was off-limits. Whether the case was real or hypothetical, it was neither laughed at nor judged. While Dr. Faizal allowed for natural reactions, he asked his students to consider what they would do if they were faced with this type of client problem. He was teaching them how to have an intimate, unimpeachable commitment to the client’s progress while cautioning them to always maintain a professional, even-keeled, and objective distance from the emotions of the client. “Even the smallest change in facial expression: a smirk, a guffaw, a scowl could alter the course of an entire session or even years of therapy,” he remarked.
Analyzing real-life cases
As the students brought up the moral and ethical issues during their weekly practicums at Moving Forward, I found myself contemplating how I would react if I were a counsellor in those situations. Even when they knew what was right or wrong, they were forbidden from being preachers. The counsellors’ moral compass was irrelevant to the therapeutic process. Every situation a counsellor will face treads the line between personal and professional opinion. The counsellor must be available to the client but never as their best friend or as their ‘person.’
This is exactly what is exciting about the counselling process. Counsellors are catalysts. They’re not part of the healing/therapeutic process but with their presence, there is a large possibility that the emotional/psychological/mental change the patient is looking for will occur.
Another issue was that for many of the cases the counsellors took on, there was no real research to rely on. Most research relating to sex therapy or couples counselling, for example, centers around Caucasian, heterosexual relationships. There are not enough studies that unpack the complex cultural specificities and political beliefs of different ethnicities or different sexual orientations.
The future of counselling
Being part of the class and discussing these new possibilities felt like we were on the brink of change. I felt truly hopeful that the students in the class would herald the next era of research, focusing on different lifestyles that will accommodate the world we live in today!
The understanding of the human psyche required to diagnose and treat clients is enormous. Even in one class, it became quite evident to me that the students were training to do just this. I came away feeling so much camaraderie and respect for the profession and the students who were diligent enough to tackle it with so much grace. If I were to seek professional help one day, I would feel safe in their capable hands. Whatever modalities they chose, whether it was Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Sex Therapy, or Psychoanalysis, I knew they would listen, empathize, guide, and most importantly, cherish the vitality in every client they supported.