In over seven years at ATC, Anna has worn many different hats—from Outreach Counselor, to Senior Youth Advocate, to Program Manager. Demaree has been an Outreach Counselor for the last three years and is newly in the role of Program Manager. Anna and Demaree sat down to reflect on the work they do together at At The Crossroads, its strengths, how it could be better, and their vision for the future and in doing so, they got deep into a conversation about what day-to-day counseling with ATC’s clients really looks like.
According to Anna, counseling isn’t rocket science, but a rocket scientist definitely couldn’t do it. “A counselor couldn’t do rocket science. Only a rocket scientist can do rocket science. But I have no doubts whatsoever that a rocket scientist could not do homeless youth counseling.” She says this is because it takes a lot of patience and a certain kind of person to be in a space to listen deeply to what clients are saying and to earn their trust over time.
“I would want the community to understand that counseling is just more than, like, ‘Ok. You have an issue. Bro, I’m going to counsel you through this.’ Counseling is something—is someone who’s just there, to bounce ideas off of, to run things by, to check in with, to say hi to, to celebrate with, to cry with…” -Anna, Program Manager
Anna discusses how this kind of work requires that counselors are at at least 80% of their energy and wellness levels in order to show up for clients and meet them where they’re at, quite literally as Demaree describes, ”We meet clients where they’re at. We’re literally there with them. Literally living their experiences with them.”
For Demaree, meeting clients where they’re at can look like a lot of things. One of his clients has extremely paranoid behavior. Demaree describes how a lot of the time, working with this client requires “not challenging where he’s at by giving him alternatives.” Rather, Demaree tries to walk with this client through the experience they’re having. In this instance, counseling requires Demaree to strike an important balance between not challenging the client’s very real feelings, while also trying to “alleviate the stress they’re going through in the moment with you.”
A lot of ATC’s counseling work comes down to simply being there for clients, day in and day out. Or as Anna describes it, “I just can’t express enough—how much being that constant—each week, each hour—changes people’s minds, even if it’s just in the tiniest way.” Demaree says that some of his best counseling comes when he’s been able to simply keep quiet and listen. “It sounds like the simplest thing in the world, sounds like the easiest thing in the world but it’s so hard to find people in your life that will shut-up and listen. Not challenge you, not judge you, not criticize you, but just listen and say ‘I hear what you’re saying.’”
Listen as Anna and Demaree demystify what counseling at ATC is really about.