It is a year ago today I graduated with a Masters in Counselling. Today it is my colleague Vikki Roubin’s turn. To return to study in midlife with the demands of work and family, not to mention the energy limitations of being in the second half of life, is no small feat. However, along with Vikki I discovered something about mature age learning. We are those annoying students (to undergrads) who sit up the front of class and ask a hundred questions. When Peter Janetzki was my lecturer, I bombarded him with endless issues, ranging from managing a work/life balance (I had burned out as a pastor), developing a strong alliance with clients, ethical dilemmas, complex situations and more. Mature-age learners are like giant sponges; decades of doing life leads to countless questions about how to help people make sense of their own pain.
As a pastor, I thought had all the answers. I could quote Bible verses, encourage people in prayer, remind them of God’s love. All of these are helpful, but what if a person remains stuck? What if childhood trauma or a battle with addiction do not yield to all the prayer a soul can muster? What if faith is just too hard to find? What if ‘experts’ in psychiatry and a raft of psychopharmacological interventions bring no change?
The role of a counsellor is as simple as it is profound. To join with a wounded person, to journey with them through their pain, to develop concise concepts of the meaning we make that gets us stuck, and to bring interventions that help a person grow, this takes patience, a loving gaze, an attentive heart and a lifetime of experience. In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell posits that it takes ten thousand hours of practice to master a skill. Experience (at least ten thousand hours of it!) tells me he is right. With Vikki, I am on a journey of discovery. I learn from my clients every day. I learn about resilience, courage, determination and the irresistible urge to really live the lives we are given. To become who we authentically are. So to all mature age learners, to my fellow colleagues at Peter Janetzki and Associates, and to our clients, I salute your willingness to engage in life, and to live it in freedom. Here’s to personal growth!