The Helping Relationship

Once upon a time my life changed and I began a whole new one - and it has led me here to this exact place.

I believe that we are healers called to this work as a vocation.

I believe that we have a moral obligation to meet our clients where they are at, free of judgement.

I believe we have to do the work to learn about the different cultures in our communities and not rely on the emotional labour of our most marginalized.

I believe we have to examine our privilege and our assumptions and work from a place of openness and curiosity.

To do any less is to fail our clients.

One day I will answer all these questions and I encourage all my colleagues and classmates to do the same:

Questions from the Margins!  Image Description: A Poster called “Questions from the Margins” asking counsellors about their cultural competencies.

Questions from the Margins!

Image Description: A Poster called “Questions from the Margins” asking counsellors about their cultural competencies.

In 2017 I wrote a letter to myself as a way of reflecting on a course in Social Justice and Cultural Competency with the INCREDIBLE Karlee Fellner and I want to share that letter with you here and now, 2 years later, because it is still true…

Dear Michelle,

Do you ever fear that you are losing your creative spirit by being in school?

Do you ever worry that you let violence force you into this career change and that you didn’t take enough time?

Do you wonder about regret and loneliness and what happens when Gary dies or if he will eat you if you die? How long would he wait?

You’re thinking a lot about grief again. Thinking about the past and the ways you chose to take, or not take, care of yourself. Thinking of the grandfather you never knew and what he did to the small child that became your father. Wondering who he might have been were it not for all the secrets and violence. You’re thinking a lot about who we might have been. But if you hadn’t had the pain would you have the joy and the peace we sometimes get to feel? Would you find solidarity and strength in your sisters? Would you be able to touch the earth and connect with all the ancient breath and feel renewed and strong? Would you be able to feel grief deep down in our bones when nostalgia swoops in and steals another night of sleep?

All this grief thinking isn’t regret though, don’t forget, it’s love. That’s why you’re here, right now, at this computer, trapped in the little boxes, having your feelings hurt by gentle with sensitive egos just like yours. Because of love. This job you’re going to do, whatever it might end up being, is because of love.

And guess what again, silly girl, love is also creative. How can you worry you’ll lose that. It’s your power.

You can think about grief and write about it and dream about it and talk about it and fall in love with it. And you can dive in and work with others, lost like you were – like you sometimes are – and peace will work its way back to you all. Like the worm in Celia’s Song (Maracle, 2014)? Was that the story? Did you get that right?

Take all this Michelle, and weave into your bones and take it with you to your friends tonight and hold their faces and tell them you love them. This is the right choice. The right time. The right path. I hope. I think. I believe.

And I love you.


P.S. Feed the cat in case you die, give that beautiful face a couple extra days.