The use of metaphors can be an effective tool in finding common ground. The Messy Desk is a way I often describe the process of counselling.

Imagine that your mind is like a messy desk. Each bit of information and event you have engaged with over your life is another document that is placed on your desk. Some are small and others may be large heavy documents. Over time our desks can fill up with many of these documents all waiting for us to do something with them.

A common way to deal with messy desks is to take a break and ignore the mess. This can manifest itself in our lives as coping strategies such as going for a run or listening to music or less healthy strategies such as gambling or drinking alcohol excessively. The problem with having a break is that the documents are still waiting for us when we come back.

Having a messy desk becomes an issue when someone asks you to find them a document. If your desk is messy, this can become an overwhelming process which will often lead to more stress.

What we need to do is regularly clean our desks and file these documents away in the appropriate place. Then if someone asks for a document, it would be a simple case of opening up the filing cabinet and accessing it.

When people come to counselling, their desks could be very messy and they may find the process of cleaning up quite overwhelming. This is where counsellors can help them to process these documents and file them away effectively. Some of the larger files may take more time and support in clearing away.

We have many competing demands and stimuli in our lives so documents are continuously added to our desks. Because of this, counselling can also be a process of learning how to clean your desk yourself. A counsellor may teach you skills to know when your desk is getting too messy and how to do your own filing so as that your desk stays in manageable state.

The process of counselling is a collaborative one. And whilst people access help from professionals for specific issues, they are the only ones aware of what documents are on their desks and what needs filing. The Messy Desk serves as a reminder that we all need to do some filing from time to time.