My college education, like many people's, started on an entirely different path. I've always loved stories, and began as a student of writing with a focus on theater and film. In the short years I spent focusing on this, I learned a lot about what makes a story good, what draws the audience in and what fails to do so. Story arcs, character arcs, a good plot twist and how to set it up.
It was to these concepts I returned as I pondered the identity of my counseling practice. Launching into the private frontier meant that I was the one answering all those questions: Do I name my practice? What name should it have? What is the experience I am building for my clients?
As I pondered these questions, I took courses on practice building and marketing, perused logo designs and listened to testimonials of professionals who blazed the trail before me. Not finding much that resonated, I went looking through old photos to refocus on a sense of my own journey.
Then, I came across a photo I took of a climber at Garden of the Gods several years ago and something just--clicked. It was like a sort of homecoming in my mind, and I began to see where my own counseling journey was taking me. Though the focus of study changed drastically through my adult life, the core of what drove me remained constant--story.
As I looked at the image of the climber--loaded with gear, a weary but determined posture, claiming the peak--it became clear: this is what we're doing.
So I took the image and ran with it, even using photoshop to fashion that unknown climber into my own unique logo, believing that the message this picture spoke to me would resonate as well in the people my practice is destined to help.
A Good Comeback
You know what makes a book, movie, or play engaging? There are elements that are essential for connecting with an audience. There are plot points and nuances of character that have to be there. Most of the time we don't think about them, we just come away feeling like a story hit the spot, or it didn't.
For instance, conflict is key. Stuff has to go wrong. Nobody but a toddler will tolerate a tale where the hero faces no challenge, no heartache, no quest. Why is that? Because we can't connect with a "perfect" world. All our stories have tragedy. They are each in their own way beset with obstacles, disappointment, and looming questions.
But we don't just watch to wallow in the dim reality of life's difficulty--the hero's fight connects with our desire to see him finally achieve the victory, the reunion, the healing we all long for. His struggle connects with us where we are, and his conclusion shores up our hope.
That's why everyone loves a good comeback story.
And many of us are still waiting, still stuck somewhere in the middle of the movie where the bottom has fallen out, the premise we were given in the beginning is called into question, and we're even wondering if the hero really is who we thought he was after all.
It's a hard place to be, and the best place to start the process of revisiting and reinterpreting your story.
Mike Ensley, MA, LPCC is a professional counselor and owner of Comeback Story Counseling in Loveland, CO.