Research has shown that for the counselling relationship to be successful there are therapeutic conditions and personal qualities that the counsellor must adopt to enable good counselling work to take place. Person Centred Counselling aims to provide three core conditions which are unconditional positive regard or warmth, empathy and congruence and it is these themes I am going to discuss.
In order for myself to evaluate the above themes our class was separated into small groups. In my group of three, which included myself, were two women, namely Julia and Shalinder. It was taken upon us to each take the role of a prospective counsellor, one the client and the other purely an observer, who’s opinions were sought after the initial counselling session was completed.
For the ease of the reader, the three core conditions are given under separate headings, with reference to each one respectfully and are related to our group discussion.
It must be noted that when working for an agency or institution, there maybe rules and laws to follow that determine the type of counselling offered and limits to confidentiality. For example if working in a school the policy maybe to inform the parents of a child receiving counselling. Also the counsellor can only take so much responsibility and if it is felt that the client wouldn’t benefit from counselling, as not everybody does then this should be discussed and referred as appropriate. Also it should at some point, preferably the first session, be stated that if the counsellor suspects harm to the client or others by themselves that they may have to report it to the appropriate authority but that if they did feel that necessary that they would discuss this with the client first.
These are general rules that the counsellor may modify according to there own values but it is all important to set the rules for the trusting counselling relationship to take place. These rules should be mentioned with sensitivity and respect and assurance of your word
Unconditional Positive Regard
When we were first placed in our small groups it was known by this time that there are three key rules to any counsellor and counselling session which should clearly be understood and applied. The first of which is Unconditional Positive Regard. This term basically suggests that the counsellor is able to accept the client’s views and discussions both unconditionally and without judgement. Also that the client is able to convey and explore all feelings, both positive and negative and including their thoughts, without the feeling that they would be rejected or condemned ( Dr Greg Mulhauser/ Counsellingresource.com )
In our group, namely myself, Julia and Shalinder, I have taken the experience of observing myself and my interaction with Shalinder. In this role play I was acting as the client, Shalinder was the prospective counsellor and Julia was solely observing as a third party.
To draw upon my experiences of this experiment, it was necessary that I felt one hundred percent comfortable and relaxed and have the confidence and ability to voice and share my emotions and past experiences with the counsellor and also obtain their trust. I can conclude that whilst our discussion was taking place, I found that I began to feel completely at ease and was able to voice my emotions and past experiences without feeling intimidated, under pressure or of feeling judged. I also noted that Shalinder at no point gave the impression that her own opinions were being forced upon me or her thoughts were ever influencing how I felt.
During our group discussion between myself, Shalinder and Julia, it was important to be empathic when acting as the counsellor. On the basis of empathy I will use my own experiences of the conversation that took place between myself and Julia, in which case I in this given exercise was placed with the task of prospective counsellor. Julia was the client and Shalinder was the third party in a purely observational role.
From my conversation with Julia, it appeared to myself that Julia had full confidence in my listening and observing abilities. Julia, in my experience and honest opinion from our conversation, appeared to have a lot of personal problems and restrained emotions, almost fighting to be released in one sweep with myself as the counsellor. These appeared to range from a mixture emotions, namely anger, pain, heartbreak and mistrust, possibly brought about from her reference to an act of infidelity in her personal life.
There also appeared to be more deep rooted personal problems and emotions and the feeling of not being appreciated or valued by members of her family, predominantly her mother and father. This, it appeared, stemmed from various situations during her childhood, which have gradually progressed and encompassed her during her adult years. There was also the feeling of emptiness and loneliness, possibly brought about by her past experiences of life and given situations. The client at one point was reduced to tears as her emotions caught up with her and she felt the ability to release them. However at no point did Julia feel intimidated or the feeling of appearing foolish.
From all of this I could understand and relate how, in my honest opinion, that these shared experiences voiced by the client could cause so much pain, anxiety, anger and sadness. This I concluded in some instances by drawing upon similar experiences I have witnessed and in others by imagining how such events might have varying degrees of emotional upset. I also felt that by being open minded on how such experiences and emotions have on humans and their lives, I could see how such experiences have affected the client.
It is important to establish a welcoming relationship between counsellor and client and this can only be achieved with trust. The counsellor can encourage trust in the client by being genuine and honest (congruence) from the first session. It should be made clear that confidentiality will be respected and that anything said in the session will remain between the counsellor and the client.
In my observation of Julia counselling Shalinder, it appeared to myself that Shalinder felt she was in a safe environment to speak openly about her feelings of loneliness as a child and also speak quite candidly about her mixed emotions towards her school and home life. Julia explained that the conversation that was about to take place was confidential. In a professional counselling environment then it would be obvious that the discussion would solely be between the counsellor (s) i.e., in this case Julia and the client, namely Shalinder. I was acting solely as an observer at this point and only after the conversation had ended, was my opinions and observations requested.
During my observations of the conversation between Client and Counsellor, I concluded that whilst the session progressed, at all times I felt comfortable that the client had the full trust and confidence in her counsellor, due to the fact that the counsellor was not intimidating in voice, body language or eye contact. The atmosphere appeared relaxed and the client at ease with her counsellor. This I feel is a good reflection on the necessity and need for congruence in any given counselling environment.
I observed throughout our interactions during role-play that a great amount of trust had developed within the group and it was quite amazing to see how much we all opened up after knowing each other only a short time. It is vital that the client feel that the counsellor is consistently real, open and trustworthy for without this they are unlikely to open up and discuss anything necessary for healthy therapeutic growth to occur and I feel that this was achieved.
When given this task by the tutor it was to assess how each of us within our respective groups could interact and take it in turns as a counsellor, client and observer. This exercise would demonstrate how each one of us listened, communicated and observed what was clearly a variety of emotions conveyed by us all. Also we could assess within ourselves how we demonstrated the three basic themes of counselling skills ,namely unconditional positive regard or warmth, empathy and congruence.
I would conclude that this was a valuable exercise in which to demonstrate our understanding and ability to grasp the basic concept of these three themes.