Becoming Unnecessary

Becoming Unnecessary is part of the helping relationship for the counselor, but it isn't always easy. Mary never returned to counseling for a ninth session. Joan hadn’t suggested to Mary that maybe Mary was “good to go” because Joan really liked her sessions with Mary. Difficulty with "becoming unnecessary" happens. That’s why many organizations have a maximum number of sessions – it’s as much for the counselor as it is for the client. See Richard Nelson-Jones' "Introduction to Counseling Skills" for an excellent chapter on "Terminating Counseling and Helping."

At the same time, most clients fall away after their second or third session. People, for the most part, know what they want and need. If they feel their need has been met and they really don’t want to do the counseling thing anymore, that’s a good choice.

Joan reviews her charts monthly and if a client has disappeared for more than four weeks she sends a follow up email. She wrote, “Hi Mary! Hope all is well with you. Best! / joan” A few weeks later Joan received this email. “Thanks for the email. Was too busy at the time to write back. It’s all good. Andy and I are still getting all the stuff done we need to go teaching in Korea. Good thing both of us want to do this – keeps us motivated! Lots of paper work!

I passed my courses – including Contemporary Asian History. In fact I did really well. It’s funny how when you get interested in something, you do better! Let you know how things go! - Mary.”

And that was the last Joan heard of Mary for three years. This is what "becoming unnecessary" is all about.

Time Passes

Three years later Joan picked up the College’s Alumni magazine and saw a picture of Mary with Andy. A wedding picture! They had started up a Canada-Korea Café which served a variety of foods including Korean. Each table was said to feature a Korean floral arrangement. That had to be Mary.

Mary had taken a “Teaching English as a Second Language” course after her first trip to Korea and they returned for a second year. Now she was finishing Teachers College in Buffalo, New York. Right, that would only be about a 30 minute drive!

Not only that, they had a baby boy named ‘Young-Jae’. Jay was the name of Mary’s dad who had since passed away. And look at that, another picture. Mary’s mom holding her grandson with a smile that would outshine the sun! And they have a girl child in North Korea they are sponsoring through a humanitarian organization.

Oh and there is now a "guerilla gardening" group in their town. Joan's pretty sure she knows who started that up! And they donate any leftovers to the area soup kitchen. How awesome is that! Joan is thrilled for them. She really believes in the benefit of counseling – especially the whole health and existential sessions. Still, she wishes Mary had kept in touch and that Joan's help had somehow been acknowledged. Selfish, she knows. But there you have it – counselors are human too and becoming unnecessary can be painful! At the same time Joan knows...

A teacher [and counselor] is one who makes himself progressively unnecessary.