I sometimes think about the early Jesuits, missionaries scattered across the globe, encountering new cultures, learning and meeting people in their environments. What fascinating aspects of humanity they must have encountered! Though university life today is such that new faces come to our central location, students bring the richness of their worlds to Loyola. In the Counseling Center, we have the privilege of entering into these worlds by proxy – by hearing about the thoughts, beliefs, feelings, and human systems that animate our clients’ experiences. And like those early Jesuits, we have the opportunity to meet people where they are, to understand the needs of the people with whom we work and collaboratively find ways to meet those needs. In this sense, our primary purpose is to be with and for others.
Squarely aligned with this counseling process is the Jesuit concept of “cura personalis,” care of the whole person. We look at the broader context of a person’s life: we ask about their physical ailments, their financial stressors, the impact of their academic life on their social connections (or vice versa!). We understand the connectedness of these various components of an individual’s life and recognize the importance of assessing and addressing a breadth of aspects of our clients’ lives.
Counseling encourages a balance of both contemplation and action. We use the tools of reflection and introspection to increase self-understanding, to illuminate support networks, and to identify personal strengths. But we recognize that these are not ends unto themselves. Counseling is meant to create a change that ultimately enhances a client’s wellbeing, self-efficacy, self-esteem, and relationships. It is action toward positive change that gives life to the fruits of contemplation. The concept of the “magis” resonates throughout this process. Which actions are for the better? Which pathways will better produce meaningful relationships?
In sum, many Jesuit concepts and tools dovetail with the ideals and practice of counseling. While counseling does not use overtly spiritual language or practices, it is inherently open to developing all aspects of an individual. In this way, our work, like that of the Jesuits themselves, is meant to aid people in leading lives of greater authenticity and integrity so that they too may be better able to stand as women and men with and for others.