Q1 Describe key elements of psychodynamic theory. (1.1)
Psychodynamic Theory has been developed on the premise that understanding the client’s issues, feelings, behaviours and life situation is dependent on gaining a deeper insight to early life influences as a way to increase self-knowledge. As the oldest of the theories, the approach is to delve into the client’s past to find the causes of their own values, beliefs, thoughts, feelings and behaviours.
The highly analytical nature of this theory implies that work with the client is long-term and can extend over a number of years, possibly with several sessions each week. While the therapists lead and guide the sessions, they are mostly silent, with the client doing most of the talking.
The theory considers the workings and inter-connections between different mind states of the pre-conscious, conscious and ego as per the teachings of Freud in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Freud contended that the Id (a deep instinctive drive) works with the Ego (part of the Id which has been internalised from reaction to external influences) and the Super Ego (our own internal conscious “policeman”) to drive our feelings and behaviours. Together with the concept of conscious, preconscious and unconscious mind states, Psychodynamic theory aims to increase an individual’s level of self-awareness by making the unconscious become conscious. Psychodynamic theory stresses the:
• importance of the unconscious;
• importance of the past and childhood experience;
• significance of dreams; importance of insight;
• free association; interpretation;
• transference and counter-transference
Since Freud, the theory has been further developed to enrich and build on some of the basic Freudian principles. Psychodynamic theory, in overall terms is interested in exploring the dynamics between the individual and others and the dynamics within the individual’s own psyche…
To gain an in-depth understanding of Psychodynamic Theory one could consider a different explaination which is that:
Over time many of Freud’s original ideas have been adapted, developed, disregarded or even discredited, bringing about many different schools of thought and practice. However, psychodynamic counselling is based on Freud’s idea that true knowledge of people and their problems is possible through an understanding of particular areas of the human mind, these areas are:
• The Conscious – things that we are aware of, these could be feelings or emotions, anger, sadness, grief, delight, surprise, happiness, etc.
• The Subconscious – these are things that are below our conscious awareness but fairly easily accessible. For example with appropriate questioning a past event which a client had forgotten about may be brought back into the conscious mind.
• The Unconscious – is the area of the mind where memories have been suppressed and is usually very difficult to access. Such memories may include extremely traumatic events that have been blocked off and require a highly skilled practitioner to help recover.
Freud’s main interest and aim was to bring things from the unconscious into the conscious. This practice is known as psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis is used to encourage the client to examine childhood or early memory trauma to gain a deeper understanding – this in turn may help the client to release negativities that they still hold, associated with earlier events. Psychoanalysis is based upon the assumption that only by becoming aware of earlier dilemmas, which have been repressed into our unconscious because of painful associations, can we progress psychologically.
Freud also maintained that the personality consists of three related elements:
Id, Ego and Superego
• Id – The Id is the part of our personality concerned with satisfying instinctual basic needs of food, comfort and pleasure – the Id is present from (or possibly before) birth.
• Ego – Defined as “The realistic awareness of self”. The ‘Ego’ is the logical and commonsense side to our personality. Freud believed that the Ego develops as the infant becomes aware that it is a separate being from it’s parents.
• Superego – The Superego develops later in a child’s life from about the age of three, according to Freud. Superego curbs and controls the basic instincts of the Id, which may be socially unacceptable. The Superego acts as our conscience.
Freud believed that everybody experiences tension and conflict between the three elements of their personalities. For example, desire for pleasure (from the Id) is restrained by the moral sense of right and wrong (from the Superego). The Ego balances up the tension between the Id wanting to be satisfied and the Superego being over strict. The main goal of psychodynamic counselling, therefore, is to help people to balance the three elements of their personality so that neither the Id nor the Superego is dominant.
Q2 Describe key elements of person-centred theory. (1.2)
In contrast to the psychodynamic approach to counselling, childhood events and difficulties are not given the same importance in the humanistic counselling process. Humanistic counselling recognises the uniqueness of every individual. Humanistic counselling assumes that everyone has an innate capacity to grow emotionally and psychologically towards the goals of self-actualisation and personal fulfilment.
Humanistic counsellors work with the belief that it is not life events that cause problems, but how the individual experiences life events. How we experience life events will in turn relate to how we feel about ourselves, influencing self-esteem and confidence. The Humanistic approach to counselling encourages the client to learn to understand how negative responses to life events can lead to psychological discomfort. The approach aims for acceptance of both the negative and positive aspects of oneself.
Humanistic counsellors aim to help clients to explore their own thoughts and feelings and to work out their own solutions to their problems. The American psychologist, Carl Rogers (1902-1987) developed one of the most commonly used humanistic therapies, Client/Person-Centred Counselling, which encourages the client to concentrate on how they feel at the present moment.
Person-Centred Theory, sometimes otherwise referred to as “Rogerian” Theory or Client-Centred Counselling is a younger concept than the Psychodynamic Theory. It is built on the work of Dr Carl Rogers who developed the core principles in the USA during the 1940’s.
The central theme of client-centred counselling is the belief that we all have inherent resources that enable us to deal with whatever life brings.
Client-centred therapy focuses on the belief that the client – and not the counsellor – is the best expert on their own thoughts, feelings, experiences and problems. It is therefore the client who is most capable of finding the most appropriate solutions.
It effectively puts the client at the centre of the helping relationship on the premise that the client knows or can discover the ultimate truths about themselves and can be empowered to draw upon their inner resources to help and improve their situation, emotional pain or negative behaviours.
The counsellor does not suggest any course of action, make recommendations, ask probing questions or try to interpret anything the client says. The responsibility for working out problems rests wholly with the client. When the counsellor does respond, their aim is to reflect and clarify what the client has been saying.
A trained client-centred counsellor aims to show empathy, warmth and genuineness, which they believe will enable the client’s self-understanding and psychological growth.
• Empathy involves being able to understand the client’s issues from their own frame of reference. The counsellor should be able to accurately reflect this understanding back to the client.
• Warmth (also known as Unconditional Positive Regard) is to show the client that they are valued, regardless of anything that happens during the counselling session. The counsellor must be non-judgmental, accepting whatever the client says or does, without imposing evaluations.
• Genuineness (sometimes termed congruence) refers to the counsellor’s ability to be open and honest and not to act in a superior manner or hide behind a ‘professional’ facade.
A key element of this Theory is the need for it to be non-directive on the part of the counsellor, so that the client is able to take responsibility in the process. The theory believes that this responsibility can and will be taken because we all have an innate capacity to fulfil our potential and to grow and become greater than we are. Rogers calls this the “Actualising Tendency”. Rogers’ ‘core conditions’ include congruence, empathy, unconditional positive regard. Rogers’ other necessary and sufficient conditions are psychological contact, incongruence of client, and that empathy and unconditional positive regard are communicated to the client.
Person-centred counselling is non-directive and growth oriented. The other elements of Person-Centred Theory relate to structured ways of understanding the self and to what is required from the counsellor.
Regarding understanding of the self, this part of the theory is founded on the idea that our feelings drive our behaviour and that we use our behaviours and how these are perceived by others to reinforce our own “Self-Concept” (Rogers) of who we are. In other words, over time we build a conceptual construction of ourselves, including our perceived strengths and weaknesses. This self-concept can be very powerful as an influencer of what we do or try to become in our lives. It is also shaped by our own “Conditions of Worth” (Rogers) which describe how we value ourselves related to the winning of approval or disapproval by others. Sometimes people can become too dependent on winning approval that they become victims in the sense that their own behaviour is inhibited by the need to be acceptable to others. In a way they have lost sight of their true self, known as the “Organismic Self” (Rogers).
The Organismic Self understands what it needs for improvement and sends out messages or clues, even if the client has a poor self-concept. This comes back to the person being at the centre of the process in that the counsellor’s role is to help unlock the problem (s).
Regarding what is required from the counsellor, Rogers teaches that while the counsellor should not direct or structure the sessions they should at all times seek to fulfil “Three Core Conditions”. These are Congruence, Unconditional Positive Regard and Empathic Understanding as discussed earlier.
Q3 Describe key elements of cognitive-behavioural theory. (1.3)
Cognitive-Behavioural Theory – CBT Theory is applied in the present time frame, to help the client resolve negative or unhelpful reactions to situations by learning new ways to react. It has been developed by integrating behaviour therapy with cognitive therapy and is the youngest theory, (most fully developed during the 1970’s and 80’s). As its primary focus is in the present it does not investigate the historic causes and so is not concerned with understanding or addressing the underlying root of belief systems and behaviours.
The CBT Approach to Counselling focuses on the assumption that the environment determines an individual’s behaviour/emotions. How an individual responds to a given situation is due to behaviour that has been reinforced as a child. For example, someone who suffers from arachnophobia will probably run away screaming (response) at the sight of a spider (stimulus). CBT therapies evolved from psychological research and theories of learning concerned with observable behaviour, i.e. behaviour that can be objectively viewed and measured.
CBT therapists believe that that behaviour is ‘learned’ and, therefore, it can be unlearned. This is in contrast to the psychodynamic approach, which emphasises that behaviour is determined by instinctual drives.
The Cognitive-Behavioural Theory is used both in individual and group situations and tends to be effective in treating mood, anxiety, personality, eating, substance abuse and psychotic disorders. It is also recommended by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) to treat specific mental health difficulties such as post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), bulimia nervosa and clinical depression. So for example, CBT can be most effective with negative automatic thinking, irrational phobias/beliefs or anti-social behaviour in youngsters where the primary need is to re-learn. CBT stresses the distinction between event, belief/inference and consequence of belief/inference.
There are different approaches used within CBT, often depending on the nature of the problem. A diary may be kept of events and feelings, thoughts and behaviours, questioning and testing cognitions, assumptions, evaluations and beliefs that are unhelpful or unrealistic and gradually facing activities which have been avoided and trying new ways of behaving and reacting. Relaxation, mindfulness and distraction techniques are also used. CBT is focused on the problems and requires openness and honesty between client and counsellor, so that the counsellor may develop strategies and a structure for managing the problems and guiding the client to a better life situation.
Alternatively, the long-term effectiveness of CBT can be questioned on the basis that it does not attempt to discover nor address the root cause of the issues.
Q4 Identify key differences between psychodynamic, person-centred and cognitive behavioural theory. (1.4)
The key differences (and similarities) between the theories:
• Long Term
• Analyses Causes/Why?
• Counsellor lead
• Equal Relationship
• Needs trust building
• Takes time needed
• Considers Causes
• Needs trust building
• Does not consider causes
• Structures/guides a solution
• Needs to become open and honest
Q5a Describe how counselling theory underpins the use of counselling skills. (2.1)
Theory underpinning use of counselling skills: role of theory in influencing practitioner’s model of health; goals and methods; style of working; type of counselling relationship
The backbone of counselling theory is developing a rapport with your client. Counselling skills that are taught relate directly to counselling theory. Counselling theory is developed by looking at many cases over a great length of time and assessing the effectiveness of the skills used in these cases.
Professional practice of guidance and counselling (i.e. using counselling skills) without theory is blind and theory without practice is sterile. Theory has many uses. It gives framework/foundation for professional practice-suggests setting of counselling goals, techniques to achieve the selected goals, and evaluative measures as to the extent the pre-set goals are met, and the efficacy of the methods and techniques used to achieve the goals. A theory when further proved through practice also suggests modification, enrichment, advancement of the counselling process in particular and the counselling profession in general.
Q5b Describe how different counselling theories underpin the use of counselling skills in different approaches. (2.1)
Theories Underpin Skills – If the counsellor is knowledgeable and capable of practising a range of theories, there is the opportunity to consider and explore the needs of the client to determine which therapeutic model would be most effective in the helping relationship.
With CBT, for example, the approach of the counsellor structuring and guiding the client through a process of improvement may be more useful in problems relating to mental health, where the guidance is necessary for the therapy to be effective.
Then taking Person-Centred Theory as an example, it helps to inform use of the following counselling skills. The counsellor is Congruent when being authentic, genuine and real and letting the client know that they are Ok to be themselves, also without façade. This is important to engender transparency so that the counsellor is less likely to be seen as superior and the client is more likely to feel empowered to change themselves.
Unconditional Positive Regard is a non-judgmental acceptance of the counsellor which enables them to explore negative feelings honestly and to feel self-acceptance. Empathic understanding is the endeavour to experience the client’s situation through their eyes and it is communicated through attention and caring, which helps the client to value themselves.
Regardless of the theoretical model being used, without a model or several models to draw upon a counsellor may be much less effective. This is because there would be no framework to guide them in the helping relationship in, for example, knowing when best to be silent, when to question and how. In other words, even with the best intentions of helping the client, they could do more harm than good from attempting to do so without a frame of reference and best practise, as relates back to the theories.
In conclusion, knowledge of the counselling theories and when and how to apply them goes hand-in-hand with effective use of the practical counselling skills, bringing theory into practical realisation in the helping relationship.
Q1 Identify an ethical framework. You should clearly state the name of the ethical framework within your answer. (1.1)
The Career Development Institute (CDI) Code of Ethics is an ethical framework.
The CDI is the single UK-wide professional body for everyone working in the fields of career education; career information, advice and guidance; career coaching, career consultancy and career management. As an Employability and Careers specialist I adhere to the CDI code of ethics.
Q2 Identify key aspects of the ethical framework. (1.2)
Adhering to a Code of Ethics is one of the cornerstones of professional practice. The CDI Code of Ethics, consisting of twelve principles, was drawn up in consultation with members and published in October 2014. The intent is for it to be used and referred to as a tool to increase and maintain a common trust and understanding of values and beliefs necessary to do our work.
To support practitioners in the application of these principles, the Professional Standards Committee has produced a Framework which can be used by practitioners as a step-by-step decision making process. This Framework was based on a review of existing ones and is offered as a guide to members in making decisions that affect their practice. The practitioner therefore needs to use it as a guide rather than a definitive answer.
The purpose of the Code of Ethics is:
• To cover the professional behaviour and practice required of all CDI members.
• To inform the public of the ethical principles to which all CDI Members adhere.
The CDI, whilst recognising the diversity of backgrounds and work settings of its members, requires all members to adhere to the highest standards of professional behaviour as set out in the twelve principles below:
? Continuous Professional Development
? Duty of Care
? Equality, Justice, Transparency and Confidentiality – Fundamental British Values
? Transparency and Trustworthiness
Q3 Describe how this ethical framework informs your own use of counselling skills. (1.3)
The CDI Code of Ethics covers the professional behaviour and practice required of all CDI members and informs the public of the ethical principles to which all CDI members adhere.
This Code of Ethics applies to individual career development professionals rather than organisations and all members must adhere to the highest standards of professional behaviour as set out in these principles.
Career development professionals have expertise in careers information, advice, guidance, coaching, development and education but more than this career development professionals must know how and when to apply their specialist knowledge. This Code of Ethics is not a rulebook, it does not list procedures to follow for every circumstance, but is intended as a guide to professionals in all aspects of their professional lives – especially relationships with clients, colleagues, employers and wider society.
The full CDI code of ethics can be found at: http://www.thecdi.net/write/227_BP260-X8513-Code_of_Ethics-A4-digital.pdf
Q4 Outline ways in which people experience discrimination. (2.1)
Different ways in which people experience discrimination are:
Direct discrimination is when you’re treated differently and worse than someone else for certain reasons. Direct discrimination can be because of: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation
Indirect discrimination is when there’s a practice, policy or rule which applies to everyone in the same way, but it has a worse effect on some people than others. Something can be indirect discrimination if it has a worse effect on you because of your: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation.
Comparators in direct discrimination cases
If you want to show you’ve suffered direct discrimination, you need to compare your treatment with the treatment of someone else who doesn’t have the same protected characteristic as you. The Equality Act calls this person a comparator. The comparator is someone who’s in the same or similar enough situation to you, but who doesn’t have the same protected characteristic. For example – If you’re directly discriminated against because of disability, the comparator is someone who doesn’t share your disability but who has the same abilities and skills as you. The comparator can be someone who’s not disabled or someone with a different disability.
Sometimes it doesn’t count as unlawful discrimination if someone treats you unfairly because of who you are. The Equality Act 2010 says if someone has a good enough reason for treating you unfairly, they may be able to justify discriminating against you. For example – The fire service requires all job applicants to take a number of physical tests. This could be indirect discrimination because of age, as older people are less likely to pass the tests than younger applicants. But the fire service can probably justify this. Firefighting is a job which requires great physical capability. The reason for the test is to make sure candidates are fit enough to do the job and ensure the proper functioning of the fire service. This is a legitimate aim. Making candidates take physical tests is a proportionate way of achieving this aim.
Pregnancy and maternity discrimination
Pregnancy and maternity discrimination is when you’re treated unfairly because you’re pregnant, breastfeeding or because you’ve recently given birth. You must suffer a disadvantage as a result of the unfair treatment.
Absence from work because of gender reassignment
You’re protected against discrimination if your absence from work is related somehow to your gender reassignment (sex change).
Discrimination connected to your disability
Discrimination arising from disability is when you’re treated unfairly because of something connected to your disability rather than the disability itself. For example – You’re blind and need a guide dog. You’re refused entry to a restaurant because the restaurant doesn’t allow dogs inside. The need for an assistance dog is connected to your disability. This would be unlawful discrimination, not because of your disability itself, but because you need an assistance dog. You’re being put at a disadvantage because you need the dog to help you. It doesn’t matter that other people can’t take their dogs into the restaurant because they don’t need a dog to help them.
Duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people
Some people or organisations like employers, shops, local authorities and schools must take positive steps to remove the barriers you face because of your disability. This is to ensure you receive the same services, as far as this is possible, as someone who’s not disabled. The Equality Act 2010 calls this the duty to make reasonable adjustments.
Harassment is when someone behaves in a way which offends you or makes you feel distressed or intimidated. This could be abusive comments or jokes, graffiti or insulting gestures. Harassment is a form of discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.
Sexual harassment is unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature which:
• violates your dignity
• makes you feel intimidated, degraded or humiliated
• creates a hostile or offensive environment
You don’t need to have previously objected to someone’s behaviour for it to be considered unwanted.
Making or telling someone to discriminate
It’s unlawful to make someone or tell someone to discriminate against you. It’s also unlawful to tell someone or make someone harass or victimise you. It doesn’t matter if someone actually discriminates against you or not. It’s the act of telling someone or making someone discriminate against you which is unlawful. The Equality Act calls this causing, instructing and inducing someone to discriminate.
Victimisation is when someone treats you badly or subjects you to a detriment because you complain about discrimination or help someone who has been the victim of discrimination. Because the Equality Act recognises you may be worried about complaining, you have extra legal protection when you complain about discrimination.
Q5 Describe your own experiences or observations of possible discrimination. (2.2)
In 1996 I was working in London for an organisation whose head office was in Belfast, Northern Ireland. A London based colleague and I needed to visit Belfast for work purposes. When our assignment there was completed a colleague who worked at the Belfast office offered to take us to the airport instead of us getting a taxi. We had to walk through a certain deprived area to get to his car. As the three of us walked to the car, some kids who were playing outside their houses started to throw stones at my London-based colleague and I. Our Belfast based colleague protected us as much as he could as parents and adults came out of their houses to join in the stoning of us.
I was petrified!
When we eventually got to our colleague’s car, he explained that the adults and kids were throwing stones at us simply because we were black. He explained that certain northern Irelander’s associated black people with being in the military and hence hated black people on sight!
This incident has had a profound effect on me. I couldn’t believe I was hated simply for being black. I was scared for my life. I realised that I could never change my skin colour so I had to accept that I would sometimes simply be hated because of the colour of my skin.
Q6 Describe key legal aspects of anti-discriminatory practice. (3.1)
The Human Rights Act 1998 sets out the fundamental rights and freedoms that everyone in the UK is entitled to. The Act aims to ensure that all people are treated equally and protected from discrimination by having the same rights. The Human Rights Act gives you legal protection of your human rights, like your
right to life, or your right to a fair trial.
• These rights come from the European Convention on Human Rights.
• Each right is referred to as a separate article, for example, Article 2: Right to life.
You are protected under the Human Rights Act if:
• you live in the UK. This includes if you are a foreign national, detained in hospital or in prison.
The Human Rights Act is important because:
• it sets out a minimum standard of how the government should treat you. It makes sure that they think about meeting your basic rights when they do their job. This includes when they use other laws.
• Parliament must think about whether a new law follows the Human Rights Act before it comes into force.
The Equality Act 2010
Discrimination is often the underlying cause behind lack of inclusion. It means treating a person or group unfairly because of a particular characteristic, such as gender, disability, age, ethnic origin, skin colour, nationality, sexuality and/or religious belief.
Protected characteristics are the nine groups protected under the Equality Act 2010. They are:
• gender reassignment
• marriage and civil partnership
• pregnancy and maternity
• religion or belief
• sexual orientation
Discrimination usually results in negative consequences for the person or group, reducing their opportunities, excluding them from communities and restricting their ability to contribute to society and live their preferred life. Discrimination has been described as ‘putting prejudices into practice’.
People can suffer discrimination from individuals who abuse or insult them. But entire organisations – including those in health services – can also discriminate against people (usually unintentionally) by, for instance, having signs that are not appropriate for sight-impaired people, or printing patient information leaflets in only one language, or discriminating against women by making it difficult for mothers to attend appointments by giving them times outside school hours, or neglecting to recognise the needs of people with, for example, dementia or a learning disability by offering them only a very brief time with staff at clinical appointments.
Discrimination isn’t just offensive – it’s also illegal. The Equality Act 2010 protects people from discrimination from:
• businesses and organisations that provide goods or services, like banks, shops and utility companies
• health and care providers, such as hospitals and care homes
• housing associations and estate agents
• schools, colleges and other education providers
• transport services like buses, trains and taxis
• public bodies, including government departments and local authorities.
Anti-discriminatory practice therefore aims to counteract the negative effects of discrimination on patients/clients and to combat discrimination in all its forms. You must not be involved in any actions that could be seen as discriminatory or potentially insulting to any individual or group, including your colleagues.
Q7 Explain how diversity impacts on the counselling relationship. (3.2)
The client-counsellor relationship is fundamentally a relationship between two or more human beings. Obviously there are two different roles in the relationship but both counsellor and client(s) have a history of experiences that have shaped who they are, how they view the world and what their values are. Rapport is a foundation of the counselling relationship and without respect for and knowledge of diversity, rapport is difficult to build and maintain. In order to help clients deal with confronting issues it is important for counsellors to understand the intricacies of a client’s behaviour which are influenced by their age, emotional state, demographic profile, culture, and other factors.
Q8 Explain ways to address difference and diversity in counselling skills practice. (3.3)
Diversity is often understood to refer to the presence of particular differences between individuals in a group of people or a society. The most prominently recognised types of difference are sometimes called “The Big Seven”. They are:
• Ability (physical and/or mental)
• Socio-economic Class
This list is increasingly seen as limited in its scope, and not necessarily inclusive of all the ways in which difference manifests in 21st century Britain. LGBTQ+ diversity, ethnicity, neurodiversity, family background (e.g. adoption or non-conventional family background), regional differences, first language, and complexities of societal privilege are not comprehensively reflected in this list.
Equality is the principle that every person should be treated fairly and equally. This is an extremely important value for the counselling profession to uphold at all levels.
As helpers/counsellors we not only have a duty to demonstrate equality and respect diversity in our interactions with clients, but we also must uphold these values in relation to our colleagues. This extends to counselling organisations, colleges and universities too. Awareness of equality and diversity in counselling touches on the ethical principles of respect and justice outlined in the 2018 BACP Ethical Framework:
• Respect: “We will… endeavour to demonstrate equality, value diversity and ensure inclusion for all clients.” and “We will take the law concerning equality, diversity and inclusion into careful consideration and strive for a higher standard than the legal minimum.” (BACP, 2018, p. 20)
• Justice: “the fair and impartial treatment of all clients and the provision of adequate services.”. (BACP, 2018, p.11).
Diversity and difference in the counselling relationship can create challenges to the counselling relationship and may present barriers to relating. Potential issues include:
• Lack of knowledge about the client’s culture – A client may wish to talk about attitudes, customs or cultural references which are unfamiliar to the counsellor. In cases where there is a lack of cultural knowledge on the part of the counsellor, it is important that the counsellor does not rely on the client to educate them. Undertaking professional development around working with particular client groups is likely to be beneficial, and it is also important to remember that we cannot know everything – developing a strong counselling bond with a client can often be enough to explore at depth without having to understand all the ins-and-outs of the client’s cultural background. Additionally, a client may choose a counsellor who they feel is likely to be a close cultural match, or who specialises in issues relating to particular cultures. As counsellors, we trust in the client’s ability to autonomously select a route through therapy which will best support their journey.
• Accessibility – Not all buildings/therapy spaces are accessible for all clients. This can create a very real, physical barrier to relating. The BACP Ethical Framework stipulates that we should “make adjustments to overcome barriers to accessibility, so far as is reasonably possible, for clients of any ability wishing to engage with a service.” (BACP, 2018, p. 20).
• Communication – Interpreters may be necessary for those for whom English is not a first language, or for clients who are hearing-impaired and wish to access counselling. Challenges arising from the use of interpreters include the necessary adjustments to confidentiality agreements to include the interpreter, as well as potentially less fluid communication between counsellor and client and the possibility that some meaning could be ‘lost in translation’, particularly subtleties of inflection and emphasis. Specialist services exist for clients with language needs, including bilingual counsellors and counsellors who are able to use sign language to work directly with hearing-impaired clients.
Diversity as a Benefit to Therapy
Diversity does not necessarily create barriers to relating; in fact, it may be that speaking with a counsellor from a different background or perspective offers something valuable to the client. For example, a client who is experiencing difficulties with aspects of their culture or beliefs may find it beneficial to talk with somebody who is completely unconnected to the issues they are bringing. Additionally, somebody may wish to work with a counsellor of a different gender, age or with another difference in order to gain a fresh perspective or address relational patterns in the counselling work.
Our Personal Perspectives and Unconscious Bias
We all have unconscious biases and it is likely that on some level we will sometimes make assumptions about our clients based on their characteristics, backgrounds and even their looks. These assumptions are a response to our experiences, or introjected values, and if left unexamined and unscrutinised, may cause difficulties or even damage the counselling alliance.
It is important that in our personal development we strive to recognise what assumptions, beliefs (including stereotypical ones) and possibly any prejudices we hold regarding difference and diversity, and to be mindful of how they could impact the way we interact with clients. Supervision and an ongoing process of personal reflection are both vital for developing and maintaining good standards of practice, and nurturing our counselling relationships when working with difference.
As seen above diversity goes far beyond the common diversity issues of gender, race, religion, and disability. Diversity runs much deeper than this and also comprises diversity of personalities, experiences, beliefs, and reactions to events. It is important to recognise such diversity if counselling skills such as empathic understanding is to be provided to clients. Without recognising diversity, it would be all too easy to impose our own thoughts and feelings onto a client, especially if the client is experiencing something we have experienced. It is human nature to look for similarities and to identify with others; it is at the core of socialisation and is known as ‘homophily’ (Ingram and Morris, 2007). As counsellors, therefore, the challenge comes in identifying difference and being ok with it – working with it, rather than being threatened by it. The counsellor who can’t do this is merely placing more conditions of worth onto the client, which is incongruent with the person-centred concept of unconditional positive regard.
I believe that most people have experienced some sense of discrimination based on an actual or perceived difference. I often use my own experience of diversity within skills practice as a careers counsellor in USA, which helped me to establish the possible needs of clients attending counselling because of diversity issues. As a black heterosexual female, I have never experienced the discrimination that my gay clients had. In such cases, the skill of active listening becomes paramount if I am to gain empathic understanding and be able to demonstrate unconditional positive regard. Their story, like everyone else’s, is unique and only by accepting them from their own frame of reference can I fully appreciate their experience of diversity or discrimination.
Q1 Identify your own values and beliefs. (1.1)
By being able to identify my own values and beliefs is an important aspect of my continual personal growth and development, I use them to guide my actions and behaviours throughout my life as well as helping form attitudes towards different things. Some are really core to me and they define who I am, whilst others change in importance dependant on my needs at any given time.
My values and beliefs have changed over the years and will continue to as I grow and develop as an individual. My main values and beliefs are as follows:
• I value individuality, every person is unique and deserves to be treated so.
• Every person has the right to make their own choices and decisions, even if I do not agree with them.
Q2 Outline how values and beliefs could have an effect on helping relationships. (1.2)
Both values and beliefs are invaluable tools for:
• understanding who a client is
• deciphering why the client has made the decisions they have in life
• learning how to make choices that suit you better
• moving forward in life in ways that feel good.
Beliefs and values inform each other. For example, if the client has had a difficult childhood where love is not offered freely and they develop a core belief that ‘love must be earned’, then it’s possible they’ll develop a very strong value of trust to compensate for their anxiety that nobody loves them as is.
A counsellor’s approach is unique and is based as much on their own belief system and personal values as the theories they have studied. A good counsellor will be able to use these to help promote a good positive working relationship with their clients. By knowing our own values and beliefs it helps to realise that others have different values and beliefs, and to have a positive helping relationship. They have to respect everyone’s values and beliefs. The counsellor has to remain non-judgmental and non- bias. Values and beliefs can come across to clients in a positive and negative way. For a good helping relationship, we want to show our positive and helpful values and beliefs; and these can come across in how we behave and act. For example, as neutral and non-judgmental. As honest and fair. We can show that we are empathic and accepting of our clients. Open mindedness can come across to a client by the counsellor being empathic, accepting and understanding. However, no matter how hard we try our values and beliefs can have a negative effect as well on our relationships. For example, I must be able to not to show shock or disgust when a client tells me of something that has happened to them as this can instantly destroy the relationship as the client may feel judged and unsupported.
On a personal level – my tendencies towards perfectionism are about wanting to set and achieve high standards for myself. The logic is to aim high to achieve something good in preference to not making the effort. Again, this probably comes from my childhood and family ethos that you can only “get out what you put into life” and that all successes and good achievements comes from “1% inspiration and 99% perspiration”. However, in applying this value to myself I tend to expect it from others. I have often worked for organisations where their culture is one of being highly perfectionist, so these values and behaviours are also expected of me in my work environments.
Valuing fairness in the world for how people are treated is simply based on my belief that if people treated each other with fairness and compassion, justice will prevail and everyone would benefit. This value probably comes from religious influences through the generations of my family and inbuilt into me from an early age.
My need to influence others and to be inspired and influence by others seems to contradict my need for independence. I like to feel I can influence others in a positive way for their benefit and I enjoy and seek out being influenced by and learning from others, while trying to keep an open mind.
I believe the effect my values could have on helping relationships fall into three main areas: effects on the client, effects on myself, effects on the relationship outcomes.
For effects on the client, they may sense my need to influence a high quality outcome for them (from my perfectionism and influencing values), which could be positive if they needed to feel supported and encouraged, but could be negative if they were lacking confidence and might feel overwhelmed. I think my value of fairness and independence would have a neutral effect on the client.
My values could affect me within helping relationships in different ways depending on the scenario. For example, I might lose objectivity and over-sympathise if someone had been treated extremely unfairly and I would need to control this. From my perfectionism, I might experience frustration if the helping relationship did not seem to be achieving positive outcomes for the client. I believe my independence will enable me, in most situations, to maintain empathy and objectivity.
In terms of outcomes from the helping relationship, I believe my values, when considered altogether (independence, perfectionism, fairness and influence) will enable me to work with the client towards positive outcomes from the helping relationship, providing that I can maintain enough self-awareness and self-control, not to let my values try to dominate the relationship.
Q3 Identify your own motivation for helping others. (1.3)
When I started carer coach/counselling I was only aware of the surface motivations behind helping others. I helped others so in the long run they would help me fulfil my need to feel useful and helpful. I also wanted to discover new skills which I could use to help me in the future. Due to self-development and reflection I have learned that there are more than just these surface ones. I find helping personally rewarding mentally as it uses skills that I enjoy using and developing. I enjoy using emotional and other difficulties I’ve experienced to empathise with others, and understand that there is not always a quick fix.
Helping others is a great antidote to “unhealthy” excesses of a comfortable life, I have a good career, comfortable lifestyle, health and happiness in my personal life, but sometimes feel unfulfilled and a need to give something back to society. Sometimes I can be quite materialistic but retail therapy is never as rewarding as the felling of having helped someone to deal with issues or problems. It gives me a sense of identity and value.
I have a keen interest and sensitivity to the wants, needs, thoughts, feelings and motivations of others and have had feedback that I am highly empathic, so on the basis that people tend to enjoy doing what comes naturally to them, I am drawn to use these skills and would take great personal satisfaction from further developing them for the benefit of others. Plus, from personal experience I know how much the gift of listening can mean and now I want to help others not only as a way of giving back but also to genuinely support them so that they can be the best versions of themselves.
Q4 Identify your own blocks to listening and learning. (1.4)
To identify my own blocks to listening and learning I have to be honest with myself, and accepting that I have limits and boundaries. My main blocks are:
• Feeling unwell or tired, hungry, thirsty or needing to use the toilet. If I am tired I can switch off especially if the conversation is dull. When in pain I can become distracted and irritable. I fidget and become restless. A massive block to me is time. As a busy mother, partner, worker etc. I find it hard to allocate appropriate time especially for studying.
• I find the communicator attractive/unattractive and I pay more attention to how I feel about the communicator and their physical appearance than to what they are saying. Perhaps I simply don’t like the client – I may mentally argue with the client and be fast to criticise, either verbally or in my head.
• I am not interested in the topic/issue being discussed and become bored.
• Not focusing and being easily distracted, fiddling with my hair, fingers, a pen etc. or gazing out of the window or focusing on objects other than the client.
• Distracted: When I am distracted by my own thoughts and feelings, especially when the clients trigger them with something that they have said.
• Identifying rather than empathising – understanding what I am hearing but not putting myself in the shoes of the client. As most of us have a lot of internal self-dialogue we spend a lot of time listening to our own thoughts and feelings – it can be difficult to switch the focus from ‘I’ or ‘me’ to ‘them’ or ‘I’. Effective listening involves opening my mind to the views of others and attempting to feel empathetic.
• Sympathising rather than empathising – sympathy is not the same as empathy, I sympathise when I feel sorry for the experiences of another, to empathise is to put myself in the position of the other person and focus on their feelings and not mine.
• I may be prejudiced or biased by race, gender, age, religion, accent, and/or past experiences.
• I have preconceived ideas or bias – effective listening includes being open-minded to the ideas and opinions of others, this does not mean I have to agree but should listen and attempt to understand.
• I make judgements, thinking, for example that a person is not very bright or is under-qualified so there is no point listening to what they have to say.
• Assumption – I do this as a habit as often at work I need to come to quick solutions in business meetings.
• Previous experiences – we are all influenced by previous experiences in life. We respond to people based on personal appearances, how initial introductions or welcomes were received and/or previous interpersonal encounters. If we stereotype a person we become less objective and therefore less likely to listen effectively.
• Preoccupation – when we have a lot on our minds we can fail to listen to what is being said as we’re too busy concentrating on what we’re thinking about. This is particularly true when we feel stressed or worried about issues.
• Having a Closed Mind – we all have ideals and values that we believe to be correct and it can be difficult to listen to the views of others that contradict our own opinions. The key to effective listening and interpersonal skills more generally is the ability to have a truly open mind – to understand why others think about things differently to I and use this information to gain a better understanding of the client.
• Sudden Changes in Topic: When the listener is distracted they may suddenly think about something else that is not related to the topic of the client and attempt to change the conversation to their new topic.
• Selective Listening: This occurs when the listener thinks they have heard the main points or have got the gist of what the client wants to say. They filter out what they perceive as being of key importance and then stop listening or become distracted.
• Daydreaming: Daydreaming can occur when the listener hears something that sets off a chain of unrelated thoughts in their head – they become distracted by their ‘own world’ and adopt a ‘far-away’ look.
• Advising: Some people want to jump in early in a conversation and start to offer advice before they fully understand the problem or concerns of the client.
• Thinking ahead of what I want to say when others are speaking., which comes from a need to ensure I have my influence (own ego).
• Being Right: Being right means that I will go to any length (twist the facts, start shouting, make excuses or accusations, call up past sins) to avoid being wrong. My convictions are unshakeable.
• Placating: “Right, Right, Right, Absolutely, I know, of course you are Incredible. Yes, Really? I want to be nice, pleasant, supportive. I want people to like me. So you agree with everything.
I am conscious of all the above and hence am very careful to make sure that at any one time I do not let them affect my helping relationship.
Q5 Describe the benefits of giving and receiving feedback for personal development. (1.5)
a) Benefits of giving feedback
b) Benefits of receiving feedback
Just before exploring the benefits of feedback, it may be helpful first, to set the scene about personal development.
Personal development and growth seems to come from a combination of life experiences, personal endeavour and achievement, including the essential interactions with others. It is also enabled and enhanced through consciously increasing one’s own self-awareness of own thoughts, feelings, actions and behaviours; based both on the past and what we might intend for the future. By growing our self-awareness, we gain greater insight in where we might need to focus our personal development efforts.
A main way to increase self-awareness is from receiving constructive feedback from others on how our behaviours are perceived by them and what our behaviours may imply about ourselves in terms of motivation or attitude, values and beliefs. Sometimes it is important to understand, through feedback, how we impact others through our behaviour, what we say and how we say it. In this way, feedback on ourselves gives us the opportunity to consider whether we want to use the information towards our own personal growth.
It could be that by collecting feedback from a number of different people, a picture can be built about oneself through the shared views of others. This is like a consensus view of one’s own attributes or weaknesses, of which previously we may not have been aware.
The Benefits of Giving Feedback (benefits to the giver of the feedback)
The process of giving “good” feedback relies upon commitment in the person giving it to be fully present when observing the person who is to receive the feedback. This can serve to grow the counsellor’s own practise and skills in listening, understanding and empathising with the observed person. It is therefore essential for someone training to be a counsellor to practise and develop their effectiveness at observing and giving feedback. It helps to grow themselves as people.
Giving feedback to colleagues in the workplace has the benefit of establishing the leader within the team. It can engender respect and openness upon which trust between team members who work together can be built.
Regardless of the situation, if feedback is accompanied with “unconditional positive regard” (source: First Steps in Counselling, Ursula O’Farrell,1999), then the value of the feedback is further enhanced. It means that there is an inherent respect for the person’s worth as a person and his welfare. In this way the feedback given becomes open honest and constructive with the best interests of the person receiving it. We can think of it as a gift from one person to another.
In a helping relationship, giving feedback has the benefit of enabling the client to grow their own skills of listening, observation and practise in giving constructive feedback.
The Benefits of Receiving Feedback (benefits to the receiver of the feedback) …
The benefits of receiving feedback, for the person receiving it relates to the opportunity to understand and consider another viewpoint on themselves and decide if they want to act on it. The feedback can provide another perspective which helps the receiver understand themselves better through others and can help them to further develop.
In the workplace, many employers encourage the use of regular team feedback sessions in a one-to-one scenario, where individuals give and receive feedback to and from each other. The individuals can be peers or can be team member and their manager. Another approach which can be used either instead of, or in addition to the one-to-one method, is 360 degree, anonymous feedback questionnaires. This is where the person requiring the feedback, on their own leadership behaviours, for example, can request a survey from a number of respondents including managers’ peers and own staff. This can be a powerful way of gathering compelling feedback on own strengths and weakness, giving tangible direction and insights for the person’s own future personal development.
Steven Covey in his book “The Seven Habits of Successful People” talks about the need to “sharpen the saw” to work on one’s own continuous improvement. While the context for this is very much about achievement in the workplace, Covey talks about the importance of pro-actively seeking feedback from others on one’s own behaviours and performance as a basis for continuous improvement.
We can extend this idea to personal development, whether that is related to development of leadership, physical, intellectual, social, emotional or spiritual aspects and attributes of ourselves. It implies that by actively seeking out and considering feedback from others, we are able to derive great benefit from increasing self-awareness and a sense of direction for where we can look to grow.
From my experience so far on this Counselling Skills course I have seen and learned for myself and from others during the practice session – this has helped me to further understand myself at a deeper level. This can form a basis, upon which to make decisions about my own future personal development. The benefits here are the receipt of direction and insight. Even something as simple as one carefully chosen word reflected back to the client, by the counsellor, has a powerful impact; like a mirror from where the client can more clearly see themselves and where they might choose to endeavour to grow.
I have come to recognise that feedback both positive and negative is important for personal development as it helps us to become more aware of what we do and how we do it. Both in good and bad ways, this feedback can then be used to self-develop and improve our practice. Receiving feedback gives us an opportunity to change and modify our behaviour, in order to become more effective at skills. All feedback needs to be concerned and supportive; it needs to include both negative and positive feedback. Positive can help us feel good about our self and positive about our skills that have been observed. However, to develop further we need negative feedback to make improvements and grow as individuals, and practitioners.
Q6a Identify your own personal skills and qualities that are strengths in relation to a helping relationship. (2.1)
The Personal Skills of one of our Counsellors…
My main skills which I believe are strengths in a helping relationship are in active listening including reflecting and questioning and showing empathy to the client through paraphrasing and supportive summarising of the situation and what they seem to feel. Having, developed these skills from my life experience and working with all different races, cultures and nationalities in a global company, I have received feedback that I have good “people” skills and I am seen to be approachable and helpful in difficult situations. I believe these skills are strengths in helping relationships because they match my motivation to help people to solve problems and issues. I have also seen in the Triad work how using and further developing these skills has a beneficial effect on the helping relationships.
A couple of my personal qualities which I feel are strengths in helping relationships come from my tendency towards TYPE B behaviours (per Friedman and Rosenman). I am usually very calm (or able to behave in a calm manner when under pressure) and I am always trying to make sense of situations and find the big picture and long-term direction for solving problems. I think this gives me a positive orientation towards helping relationships because it enables people to feel I am “with them” and able to offer them unconditional positive regard towards helping enable them to identify and address their own issues.
Q6b Identify areas for development in personal skills and qualities in relation to helping relationships. (2.2)
With regard to your skills and qualities in helping relationships, identify the areas you would like to develop and highlight in ways in which you intend to achieve this.
The main area I would like to further develop is my listening skills. While feedback shows that people feel I am very attentive towards them, sometimes I miss parts of information resulting from my own “blocks to listening”. In a previous assessment these have been identified as loss of concentration coming from i) my sense of urgency in helping to find positive outcomes or solutions to problems (e.g. trying to think ahead of, or second-guess the client) and ii) my inner “judge” which can make me jump to conclusions about the motivations of others without verifying this.
I believe the causes of my loss of concentration come from my workplace where there is always a sense of urgency to fix things and move on. I tend to take upon myself the responsibility to fix things for myself and others. The way for me to achieve an improvement in this area is to remind myself that, in helping relationships I am the facilitator of positive outcomes for the client and NOT the problem solver. In other words I need to resist owning and solving the problem. To become more practised in this it will help me if I differentiate my working relationships from other relationships with friends and family. In other words I need to become more mindful in my interactions with others and think “is this just about work or is this an opportunity to help the person at a deeper level”.
Although physical exercise is part of my routine, I will need to build in some time for relaxing and meditation in order to become more “present”. I believe this will help me a lot in reducing anxiety and improving my concentration levels.
Q7 Describe how to develop skills and qualities in the future. (2.3)
In order to develop my skills and qualities in the future I need to
1 Know how to develop my self understanding
Definitions: values, beliefs; impact of helpers’ and helpees’ values and belief on the helping relationship
Motivation for helping others: altruism, own unresolved issues, ‘wounded healer’
Blocks to listening and learning: eg distraction, tiredness, illness, physical discomfort; concerns about own performance; thinking about what to say next, emotional blocks (including own material being stimulated)
Benefits of giving and receiving feedback: opportunity to reflect on and address ‘blind’ areas; how to give feedback using feedback ‘sandwich’; Johari window; practising giving and receiving feedback on areas of strength and ‘growing edge’ eg after skills practice, on basis of observation of peers during class interaction/ exercises
2 Know personal qualities relevant to the helping role
Personal skills and qualities: personal skills/qualities inventory; areas for development; Maslow’s theory of self-actualisation and characteristics of healthy people
Q8 Identify your own support needs in order to contribute to a helping relationship. (3.1)
Identify your own support needs in order to contribute to helping a relationship and describe how you can access this support.
Being quite a self-sufficient character I tend to see it as a form of weakness on my part to ask for help. I much prefer giving help to others than asking for it myself. However, I have come to realise that in some ways failing to ask for help when I really need it is actually a weakness rather than a strength. It can work against me and become quite isolating. The irony is that failing to ask for help could prevent me from meeting my true potential in helping others. I realise I need to try to shift my thinking on this.
Q9 Describe how to access your own support. (3.2)
3 Know how to meet own support needs
Support needs: defining own needs; how learning about and using counselling skills may change the levels of support required; peer support, supervision and personal therapy and how these may be accessed
Q10 Outline how personal and/or professional support can be used to highlight issues arising from the use of counselling skills. (3.3)
I have come to realise and appreciate that personal and professional support is vitally important to the counsellor in helping relationships because it enables them to become more effective in the helping relationship as a result of understanding themselves and addressing their own issues.
Sometimes, issues which may be unconscious to ourselves can manifest themselves when helping others, or may inhibit our ability to offer unconditional positive regard or be able to think and act objectively. In some cases it may not be possible to overcome the issues, but at least by developing self- awareness we become more mindful about how our own situation can impact the helping relationship. (e.g. we could become “too empathic” and experience vicarious anger or try to placate and rescue others with whom we more closely identify at a deep personal level).
For counselling practitioners, professional supervision is recommended and appears to be essential as a support mechanism for those regularly engaged for significant periods of time in concentrating on helping relationships. It is as if the greater the exposure to helping scenarios is, then the greater the support needs are to underpin on-going mental health and reduce stress of the counsellor, as well as to enhance and maintain their effectiveness in the helping relationship.
Although I am not a devout Christian, the Christian beliefs and teachings informed much of my upbringing. Every time we discuss the importance of support in counselling skills practice it makes me recall one of Jesus Christ’s lessons from the Holy Bible, New Testament: i.e. to help “remove the spec from someone else’s eye we first need to remove the log of wood from our own eye in order to see more clearly”…..to be of useful help. Personal and professional support appears to be a key enabler of the counsellor to become more helpful to others, through working on their own self-awareness and issues.
Q11 Describe your own observations, thoughts, feelings and concerns when using counselling skills. (4.1)
? The power of silence in helping the client access their own deeper feelings and resources. Although it might not always feel comfortable for the client, it seems to work every time to open up greater understanding.
? How eye contact and open body language helps make the client feel more comfortable to share own concerns or perceived weaknesses.
? How remembering to use paraphrasing helps me as the counsellor to avoid making assumptions and pursuing unhelpful line of questioning
? Understanding how consciously using the range of counselling skills helps the client to achieve positive outcomes for themselves.
? The idea that the “organismic self” (from Carl Rogers’ person-centred counselling theory established in the 1940’s) is motivated to find it’s own solutions, helps me to realise the client’s responsibility in the helping relationship, allowing me to release my own sense of responsibility to solve their problems for them. Realising that concentrating on using the skills is often enough to enable the client to discover and decide how to help themselves.
? Noticing how through the Triad work, I and my fellow students have grown our confidence and experience in using the skills, through providing feedback to each other. It makes me think how important it is to seek feedback on an on-going basis in my life.
? Being inspired by fellow students, with our Tutor’s guidance, in establishing trust and the safety of sharing personal thoughts and motivations.
? The encouragement and empowerment I feel in being able to help others make a difference in their own lives, through my own use of counselling skills.
? Feeling grateful for having the opportunity to join the course, for the insights and confidence I have gained from it and for the help and support I have received from everyone involved.
? Whether I will be able, at age 50, to overcome some of my less helpful behaviour patterns which have become quite entrenched in myself (as outlined above).
? Whether I will continue to receive financial sponsorship to continue my studies in counselling and if not, how I would fund this.
? The future of counselling as a practise, given technological change and how I could contribute in the “new world” environment.
Q12 Outline the benefits of self-reflection for: (4.2)
a) Personal development
4 Know how self-reflection contributes to personal development
Reflective practice: meaning of personal development; meaning of self-reflection and reflective practice; benefits of personal development for self and for use of counselling skills; impact that a simulated ‘client’s’ disclosure may have on them; why some disclosures are particularly difficult to hear; issue of competences and limitations; exploring reflective practice; reflection on observations, feelings, thoughts and concerns that occur when using counselling skills.
A counsellor’s own personal development must be in a continual process of development, growth and expansion. They must demonstrate an interest in self-awareness, self-counselling, work/life balance, focus, goal setting and other complementary areas of self-knowledge. Through their own development a counsellor will also pick up additional understanding and knowledge, which they can effectively use to support a client during the counselling process.
b) The use of counselling skills
Explain the benefits of self-reflection on your own personal development and in your use of counselling skills.
From reflecting on myself, I have realised there is a limit to what I can discover on my own. I need others and need to reach out to them to receive encouragement, support and feedback to help me become more effective in helping others.
Self-reflecting on own development needs and use of the counselling skills is a key component in deciding in what direction to grow and develop. I believe life itself is a dynamic environment where there is always something to learn about ourselves, others and the process of helping relationships. Unless we make a commitment and effort to self–reflect, to attain greater self-awareness and understanding, we may limit the help we can bring to others.
Feedback from others helps me check and verify areas for improvement. In other words the feedback helps to fuel my own self-reflection to crystalise areas of development or self-change that I need to focus on. I have also found that maintaining the discipline of updating my own Personal Learning Journal has enabled a regular self-reflection of how I am developing, learning and growing.
In conclusion I feel that self-reflection is not (as many people I know may see as) a self-indulgent act. It is a key to unlock one’s own potential to become more conscious, more self-aware as a basis to grow; both for one’s own benefit and towards being better able to help others.
I have come to recognise that successfully counselling clients through difficult times requires a combination of interpersonal skills, sufficient knowledge about the issues involved and a host of personal attributes. Balancing and adapting all this information requires the counsellor or psychotherapist to maintain a level head, confidence in their abilities and a genuine interest in providing support.
A successful counsellor must be able to demonstrate a thorough understanding of the counselling process. There are a number of key personal qualities that counsellors and psychotherapists should also possess, and which will make the therapeutic relationships they have with their clients more effective.
Empathy – Without this quality a counsellor will be unable to comprehend the problems, experiences, thoughts and feelings of another person, and will not be able to offer clients the level of supportive understanding that they will require.
Congruence – This provides clients with a vision of a counsellor’s genuine understanding and supportive nature.
Positive Regard – Counsellors must be able to build counselling relationships on a foundation of warmth, understanding and genuine support. In order for this to work, and to encourage a client to self-disclose, counsellors must have a natural rapport with a client.
Respect – Counsellors must show respect for another person, and their welfare, at all times. They must also remain impartial and non-judgmental.
Challenging skills A client must experience challenging questioning if they are to make progress during the counselling relationship. Being able to detect contradictions and encourage positive thought is an important part of the counsellor’s role.
Active listening, good interpersonal skills and an ability to question, reflect and challenge attitudes and beliefs are all personal skills that can help a counsellor build a successful career. An interest in self-awareness and self-development will also ensure that the counsellor or psychotherapist continues to develop their counselling skills, whilst expanding their own knowledge of themselves.
A counsellor can also utilise many other important skills within a counselling relationship, and this could include good planning and motivational skills, problem solving, organisational ability and re-orientation skills. Each counsellor will bring their own unique abilities, qualities and skills into a counselling relationship, but must ultimately ensure that their client feels safe and supported.
Besides the counselling qualifications, and additional certificates, a counsellor should possess in order to provide a good counselling relationship, the counsellor must also be armed with sufficient personal knowledge and understanding of what counselling is all about. They must also be clear about the role of the counsellor and the problems, issues and expectations every client will present.
A counsellor must also be self-aware, and must be in control of their feelings, thoughts and emotions whilst working with clients.