Today’s fast-paced culture often doesn’t lend itself to the slow work of counseling.
PC&CC’s Robert Gordon admits that his own impatience kept him out of the counseling world for a number of years, preferring organizational work. “With individuals, I sometimes find it challenging that each client has their own process, their own time frame for growth, and it’s not mine!” he jokes. “The reason I didn’t enter the field much earlier in my life is because I was afraid I lacked the patience to work one-on-one with clients who might or might not have the courage and capacity to grow.
But now, as practicing counselor, Gordon realizes his perspective has changed. “I know now that anyone who walks into the office wants to grow and they’ll grow as quickly as they can. What I appreciate about counseling over coaching is the depth of the work we can do together and, of course, the spiritual component that often comes with working at a pastoral counseling center,” he explains. Gordon still coaches and consults, but spends most of his time with counseling.
Gordon says he appreciates the spiritual openness at PC&CC. “Spirituality plays a large role in my work at the agency, though this isn’t necessarily obvious to a client unless we are in a specifically spiritual conversation. Yet it informs my way of understanding each client.
“My chief orientation in working with individuals is what’s called Existential Therapy, which works with the value and meaning in a client’s life. Obviously, the role of spirituality – or absence of it – would have a big impact on the value and meaning clients see in their lives,” Gordon explains. “I find that clients with the deepest and most mature spiritual lives are better able to come to terms with the challenges that brought them to counseling. I think this is because all religious perspectives contain some element of surrender to something higher or larger than oneself. Just the dim possibility that it’s not ‘all about me,’ allows many clients to divest themselves of the immobilizing feeling that they are responsible for everything, whether that responsibility shows up as self-blame or feeling like a ‘control freak.’”
Going on to describe this change as moving from the stance of “victimhood” to “willing participation,” Gordon notes that he can often see a client’s perspective shift when he asks questions like, “What do you think life, or God, might be calling you to in this situation?”
He also sees his spiritual principles in the Imago approach to relationships. “One of the pastoral principles of Imago that is most appealing to me is that God, or life, seems to ‘want’ to heal us, complete us, and evolve us. It uses all available means to do this, and couplehood, at least in my opinion, is the most powerful.
“An axiom of Imago is that ‘it was in relationship that we were wounded and in relationship we heal.’ In fact, in my view, conscious, committed partnership is one of the most effective, and sacred, ways God has to heal the wounds of childhood, help us finish growing up, and evolve us into what Imago calls ‘couplehood as a spiritual path,’” he says.
In addition to working with couples, Gordon notes that he particularly enjoys working with “clients who are trying to discern their calling or life purpose or making the transition from a ‘job’ to a vocation,” and those struggling with codependency.
Gordon works out of PC&CC’s Takoma Park office and may be reached at 202-449-3789 x707