Jackie Pelia-Shuster

Sitting with “Stuck-ness”

I pondered many things while preparing to write this blog. What should I write about? Can I even write something that is not an academic manuscript anymore? What should I write about? Will anyone read it? What should I write about? It was about the twentieth “what should I write about” that I realized something…I was stuck. I kept fighting against it by trying to jump from idea to idea. Finally, though, I stilled my mind and allowed myself to sit with my stuck-ness. That’s when an idea began to germinate.

I have often extolled the strengths of being a counselor to the students and alumni of the Counseling and Career Development program here at CSU (as well as to just about anyone else who will listen). In that case, it makes sense that as I listened to my inner voice, one wonderful asset and a value-add differentiator of being a counselor that popped into my awareness is our ability to partner with clients and students to sit with their stuck-ness. Many individuals can give advice, come up with new ideas, make suggestions, and tell others what they should or shouldn’t do. As counselors, though, we have the honor of partnering with individuals as they work to achieve true transformation. Often, this requires that we help clients to still themselves so that they can sit with their stuck-ness.

Now, being stuck is not a nice place to be. It is something that not only clients, but also counselors, will struggle against. However, our skills as counselors can be wonderful gifts at these times. We provide a safe and empathetic space for individuals to explore their thoughts and feelings and how those impact, and are impacted by, their outer world. We reflect their feelings and stories back to them, honor who they are as individuals, and challenge them to notice their conflicts and inconsistencies. We encourage them to listen to their inner knowing, and in doing this, we help them find their own power and their own solutions, as well as hopeful pathways involving action and reflection. This way, rather than jumping from superficial solution to superficial solution, deeper healing and change can transpire.

This is what I do, and what I work very hard to teach my students to do. I am currently a faculty member in the Counseling and Career Development graduate program at Colorado State University. My path to this place has been a wonderful journey, and one that is highly reflective of the majority of career paths nowadays. Quite some time ago, I was an undergraduate student here at Colorado State University. (Go Rams!) After a very limited period of self-reflection and some well-meaning advice from others, I decided to major in occupational therapy (which at that time, was an undergraduate degree) and was fully intent on working in pediatrics or in the schools. Fortunately, it ended up being a “good enough” choice; I did enjoy my work as an occupational therapist, and worked in the field for 8+ years, but I found myself wanting…something…more…

I was stuck. However, rather than jumping into a new work environment, I knew I needed to stop and search within myself. Thus, through continued self and world-of-work exploration, a lot of introspection on how I wanted to have meaning and “mattering” in the world, and engaging in some trial-and-error experimentation, I am now in a career that feeds my soul and makes my heart sing—counselor education and career counseling. I am grateful for the winding path that brought me here, and for the people in my life that have walked my journey with me. Accordingly, I gently remind you, sometimes we must sit with stuck-ness for true insight, healing, and change to occur. So allow yourself that gift, and seek out those that you can invite into your journey towards your future self.

Continue the conversation on the CSU Career Center’s Facebook or LinkedIn page.

About the Author

Jackie Peila-Shuster, Ph.D., LPC, NCC, is an assistant professor in the Counseling and Career Development master’s degree program in the School of Education at Colorado State University. She received her Ph.D. in Education and Human Resource Studies with a focus on counselor education and career counseling in 2011 from Colorado State University. She also has a master’s degree specializing in Counseling and Career Development, and a B.S. in Occupational Therapy. Her areas of teaching and research interest include career counseling and development across the lifespan, counselor education, and strengths-based approaches to career and life design.
In a nutshell, Dr. Peila-Shuster has a passion for standing witness to individuals’ unique life stories while encouraging their strengths and hope in ways that they may discover themselves and maximize their life designs. She implements this by translating theory and research into real-world application in career and life design counseling and student instruction/supervision.