In this article we talk to student counsellor, Jack Bornyan, about how he used The Nature of Strengths cards in his work with a secondary student. Jack is currently completing a Bachelor of Counselling and is on placement at a secondary college in Frankston, Australia. He says his role focusses on supporting students to ‘build their resilience, develop healthy coping mechanisms and create strategies for the curveballs of life (in and outside of school)’.
Jack shared some insights about an activity he did using The Nature of Strengths cards with a student accessing counselling services.
‘I had the opportunity to use the cards with a student who was very proactive—he was open for suggestions on new ways to explore his mental health and make his journey easier.
‘I introduced the cards to the student and he was excited to begin. I asked if he could select six cards—that grabbed his attention. We proceeded with the session and card selection.’
Jack said he often finds that students engage more when he combines visual tools with verbal strategies. He also likes to encourage students to notice their strengths.
‘With the demographic that I work alongside, it is important to work with their strengths rather than their deficits as this supports their sense of autonomy. It also helps build a positive client/therapist relationship.’
The first card the student chose was ‘Standing Solid’ (Indian Rhinoceros). Jack says this card really resonated with the student.
‘This particular young person holds his values and morals close to him and will stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. His needs are placed aside for that moment in time to ensure that the other person is looked after. This also extends to his family and is not just restricted to the school grounds.’
The second card the student chose was ‘Speaking Up’ (Kookaburra).
‘Speaking up is a strength that the student said he would like to develop. As much as he can speak up for those who need assistance, he often finds it difficult to speak up for himself. This is related to fear of judgement and the constant concern of how others are going to perceive him.’
The student then picked ‘Filling Up’ (Boab Tree)—this card enabled Jack and the student to talk about emotions.
‘Bottling up emotions tightly inside is something that comes naturally to some of us as it is a defence mechanism to avoid being hurt or judged by others. Sometimes people wish for issues to disappear—they might ask Why do we have to speak about our problems all the time?’
The student then chose two more cards – ‘Taking Time’ (Bristlecone Pine) and ‘Taking Care’ (Nile Crocodile).
‘For the student, these cards related to healing, showing our scars and the struggles that we have been through. We also talked about how it is important to practice self-care activities regularly to ensure that we are looking after ourselves, especially when you are someone who places the needs of other individuals before your own.’
Lastly, the student chose ‘Having A Heart’ (Spotted Hyena) which reflected his desire for people to treat each other with respect and dignity.
Jack said he was moved by a comment the student made towards the end of his placement—the student said he believed the world was full of cruelty but if we could teach everyone to be kinder, then everyone would be happier.
‘That closing statement from my client and the power of emotion behind it gave me shivers towards the end of our session.
‘This client has been on an amazing journey over the past six months. I have witnessed such growth and commend him for trying his best every session.
‘Even though he is exhausted, he is beginning to see the rewards of counselling—he has increased his toolbox of self-care techniques, changed how he responds in challenging situations, is much more skilled at initiating conversations and is better able to recognise and process negative and positive thinking patterns.
‘Thank you, St Luke’s Innovative Resources, for providing such amazing resources and ongoing guidance for a student counsellor like myself.’
CAT NO: 4938