Updated: Nov 18, 2020
It is a weird feeling when you see someone who you once knew really well, but now feels distant. Like that best friend from middle school. You know their favourite colour was purple, and you shared countless memories of doing hilarious and slightly embarrassing kid things, but now here they are as a full-grown adult and you have no clue who they are today. I get that feeling all the time. I see an old client at the store, and know that I know very intimate details of their personal life. I worked hard with them to re-story their lives, and we persevered through challenges to change unwanted behaviours. I know their triggers, their dreams, their values; and there they are, casually walking past me in the grocery store.
As a counsellor, and in the first session with all of my clients, I agree to not initiate greeting in public as a means of protecting their confidentiality. So, I find the feeling weird because inside I am absolutely begging to find out how they're doing. If it was an old friend I'd walk straight up to them and say hello, but with old clients I can't. But I crave knowing how they're doing! I see them and wonder if that problem was solved, if there are better dynamics with that one challenging person, if that negative self-talk has finally been overridden. The best way I can explain it is as if each client is a really great book, you become intrigued by characters, invested in the challenges that the protagonist is facing, and eagerly look forward to the moments when you get to find out what happens next. You're rooting for the success of the main character, and you feel their success as warmth in your own heart. With the clients who I no longer see, it feels as though they are a half read book on my bookshelf, and I desperately want to find out the end!! I guess no matter how long it's been, I still care, I am still eagerly waiting to hear what happens next.
However, with that being said, I know the feeling when you are at the grocery store and desperately don't want to see anyone you know (not to mention your easily excitable old counsellor!!). So to those who intentionally don't initiate a greeting, please know that it doesn't change the amount of respect that I have for you. In fact, by not greeting me it gives me a feeling of pride as I continue along my day protecting your confidentiality with the best poker face that I have.
So, to all of you out there who used to be my clients, please know that the amount of positive regard that I had for you while we were working together is not only unconditional, it is timeless. I am still rooting for you!