One of the most important lessons I teach clients stems from a premise that every adult ought to embrace an acknowledgement of consequences from actions. That is, unless a person suffers from mental health or behavioral issues that prevent them from using reasoning or judgment and accepting an outcome in which they are involved, then they are responsible and accountable for everything they say and do in their life. And barring the above condition, there is no escaping this fact. It is a principle upon which all people have a direct relationship to events - from the least, to the greatest. If you are involved or play a part in issue "A", and because of that involvement a particular outcome occurs ("B"), then you are held to account for your part in that series of events ("C").
Living a life where there are no consequences to our actions would create societal chaos. Not to mention that we would feel that we could do whatever we want without any form of punishment or a need to make restitution. When I work with clients, I impart to them the lesson of responsibility and accountability, and I have discovered in my clinical practice work that many clients try really hard to remove themselves from their own role of why things were happening in their life. They soon learned that their success, failure, happiness, and overall outcome to anything in their life was directly proportionate to their level of action (or inaction); decisions; behaviors; and in holding (or not holding) themselves responsible and accountable. When a client works to deny that such things do not apply in a situation because of an "X" or "Y" factor (some outside third party or uncontrolled event), I remind them that they are only held responsible and accountable for their part - their role in that situation.
Therapy works with the same principle. It is ineffective for a client to come to therapy with the thought that they will work on themselves but not truly hold themselves accountable and responsible for the success of therapy. The effectiveness of therapy is largely on the client's shoulders, since it is about their life and personal growth work. Taking a psoition of abdication can hamper the way a client receives counseling skills from the therapist, or affect how the client will make improvements over the course of therapy.
If you as the prospective client are considering therapy with a counselor, you will likely be encouraged to embrace the idea that you are responsible and accountable for your actions. Sure, you can deny this truth within yourself, but the facts will still apply. We cannot move through life with a sense of disregarding our role of the impact we play in our life or in the lives of other people. When we come to the place where we can and do acknowledge that we have a say in what we do or do not do that helps or hurts us, then we can learn to make better decisions and improve our overall level of functioning.
Therapy is meant to provide a supportive environment to build and grow into that acknowledgment and development of awareness of how we run our lives. The therapist is ready and willing to assist you as you reach for your best self, attain the goals that create your highest good, and manifest the changes you desire to that end. Be open and receptive to the truth of accepting responsibility and accountability for what you say and do, and the success of therapy will fall into place. This will in turn create you into a new person that has the ability to recognize the role you play in your own life, and how to make better choices. It will be worth one of the greatest gifts you give yourself.
Shawn Thomas Berthel M.S., is the owner of Life Path Counseling PLLC, and a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor. He lives in University Place, Washington.