How do I make use of counselling skills and knowledge in helping interactions and/or helping work? In this essay I will outline how I make use of counselling skills and knowledge gained by looking at them individually and providing examples of how they have been used working with families and in my personal life. This will be formally and informally and will include skills practice from this course. I will look at the effects the helping have on me and how I deal with them.
Carl Rogers developed person centred therapy believing individuals design their own destiny and can successfully deal with their struggles and distresses as they have within them sufficient ability, though they may be unaware of the potential for growth and improvement they hold. The emphasis in the person centred therapy relationship is trust, respect and acceptance with awareness of beneficial changes to the client that can be brought about by such an atmosphere.
Carl Rogers believed this was dependent on the counsellor having 3 core skills, empathy, congruence and unconditional positive regard, believing these 3 skills are essential, in a helping situation. Empathy where I stand in the helpee’s shoe enables me to see and understand things from the helpee’s perspective, by separating the behaviour from the individual& remaining non-judgemental I exercise unconditional positive regard and in being genuine, keeping it real with the helpee I implement congruence.
Without these conditions in place it would be difficult for trust to be developed and, without trust a fruitful relationship cannot be established. Active Listening is a consciousness not just of what is said, but of body language, vocal tone & actions that speak non-vocally, as a helper I show an interest in the helpee’s concerns and wellbeing, giving them my undivided attention and actively listening for the duration of our time, doing this helps to makes the helpee to feel respected, valued, accepted and reassured.
I am mindful when listening to my sons of listening not only to what they say but how they say it, taking into account their body language, tone, posture, gestures etc. , my son recently told me that he was fine, however his solemn expression, tone and how he was slouching told me otherwise, bringing this to his is attention (immediacy), by sharing what I saw and felt, telling him what he was saying did not measure up with what he was expressing and how he was coming across, invited him to explore what was taking place between us as we spoke, allowing him to gain more of an understanding of himself.
When using immediacy I am honest about what I see, hear and sense, by describing what I see and hear I invite the helpee to comment on what I have shared, I am conscious of how and when I use immediacy remaining mindful of its potential impact on the relationship. I therefore choose what I say carefully, whilst being aware of why I am sharing; making sure that it is in the helpee’s best interest and not mine. I am sensitive to the helpee’s needs.
Immediacy involves risk taking by making myself vulnerable, and being willing to follow through on its outcome, it invites here and now exploration of the helpee’s ways of relating in the immediate situation. If not used with sensitivity it could cause a breakdown of the relationship. I relate the Johari window to immediacy which comes under active listening, it is a technique created by American Psychologists Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham in 1955, it was named Johari after combining their first names, it is used as an aid for self-awareness and personal development, which indicate feelings, opinions, attitudes, aims, incentives, etc. within or about an individual, it consists of four areas, being: 1. open = awareness of conscious behaviour that is known to you and others, 2. blind=things visible to others but not to you 3. hidden =things you are aware of but do not reveal to others and 4. unknown = motives feelings and thoughts that are unknown to both parties, this aids me as a helper in becoming more self-aware, regarding my motives, influences, how and why I respond in the way that I do, utilising this in the helping setting, alerts me to my prejudices and how they could impact the helping relationship if permitted.
In the example below you will see how no:2 above in effect. During a skills exercise on the Johari window, another student, stated that they saw me as confident, this would come under the blind aspect of johari window, as I was unaware of this, what they didn’t know= the hidden aspect, is how much of an effort I had to make to be inclusive in the class and to come across as confident.
At times I have found active listening draining as it draws on my mental, visual, physical and emotional resources, one way that I have dealt with this is by making sure that I am emotionally in the right place& have appropriate time to accommodate the helpee. Reflecting entails hearing & picking up on what is not being said, this involves the helpee taking risks, in raising hunches they feel. An example of this is with a parent who shared an incident that occurred stating that she wasn’t bothered by it, owever, the change in her countenance, voice and her onset of fidgeting made me feel this was not the case, taking this on board, I sensitively shared that whilst she was saying that the incident had not impacting on her, her countenance and tone became sombre and she had begun fidgeting, I asked if it was possible the incident had impacted on her more than she realised, by sharing what I felt I invited her to consider what she was feeling, which enabled her to express what she had subconsciously buried. I use caution and sensitivity when using reflection recognising that it as an invitation which the helpee may refuse to embark on.
When reflecting I am open to what I feel could be wrong and am open to correction, recognising that it is worth taking the risk for the benefit of the helpee, making myself vulnerable makes me appreciate the vulnerability of the helpee, reinforcing the need for me respecting and valuing the helpee. Paraphrasing is relaying back to the helpee what they have said in my own words, not merely repeating what has been said but stating the substance of what has been said, this can be done in a few short sentences, demonstrating what has been said has been heard and understood, allowing the helpee the opportunity to correct the helper if needed.
An example of this was when I relayed back to a client what they had shared making sure I had understood correctly, in order for me to provide the office with accurate information of the on-going case, I therefore rephrased what was said using short sentences, stating “your estranged husband is not complying with the court order”, rather than repeating the detailed information, this gave the helpee opportunity to confirm or correct what I had understood, I use this skill as if it were a mirror allowing the helpee to examine themselves i. . their beliefs & values, thoughts and feelings etc. Silence if used sensitively and appropriately can allow the helpee to talk, the use of facial expressions and movements/gestures can be used to acknowledge that they are being listened to, it can be used as an aid in allowing both helpee and helper space to think, as well as prompting the helpee into action.
Being mindful that silence for some is uncomfortable I am sensitive to the length and type of silence occurring as well as alert to its potential impact on the helpee & the relationship, qualities needed in exercising this skill includes calm, patience and sensitivity. Egan’s (2002) ‘skilled helper’ model states communication skills, of which silence is included, are vital for an effective helper.
I have used silence in a skill practice as an opportunity the helpee to think, but was conscious that it did not go on for too long, at the time, however I noticed that it had impacted on me causing me to anticipate what the helpee would say next recognising this as a block to listening, recognising if allowed to continue It could negatively impact on both myself and the helpee, I subtly brought things back, prompting the helpee to speak by asking, why she thought that her daughter was responding the way that she was, this encouraged the helpee to explore and continue the conversation.
Closed questions in the helping interaction is generally used to find out specifics, an example of this being in a skills practise exercise when I asked the helpee did they wanted to maintain their relationship with their friend, receiving the answer to this specific question allowed me to gear future questions bearing this in mind, the use of open questions enables the helpee to open up often allowing them to speak freely and to sometimes share more than they intended as they explore the situation, in a skills exercise I asked the helpee how would she like the situation to be as opposed to do you want things to change, the first question being more likely to receive a fuller more detailed response than the latter. I use this skill with my sons, it allows my son with special needs, time to explore what he’s experiencing & what he wants to say and provides him space to think, working in this way with my son can be time consuming. The book Person centred counselling in action states great care has to be taken to ensure the clients essential autonomy and right to self-determination are not violated, this is exercised in qualities used when working with my son, qualities being patience, sensitive tenacity, openness and a wiliness to allow him to think for himself, making decisions and drawing his own conclusions.
Sharing something that would ordinarily remain unknown is self-disclosure, a lesser used skill, Carl Rogers 3 core skills includes congruence in developing an atmosphere of trust and intimacy within the relationship, it is in me being genuine and not hiding aspects of myself I may choose to disclose something, not in detail, the focus should be on the helpee and not me. Disclosure can reassure the helpee helping to open up, it could also encourage hope that things can improve for them, however it could negatively impact on the helpee causing them to avoid mentioning their issues because of concern for the helper, it could also cause them to have negative feelings about the helper or to see them in a negative light which could be detrimental to the relationship. I don’t disclose often & only do so if it would benefit the helpee; I keep it brief i. e. statin I have experience of what they are speaking about.
Last week I self-disclosed to a parent, stating that I too became a single parent with young children, I didn’t go into detail keeping the focus on the helpee, this resulted in the help saying “I managed to get through it with two children who were younger than her son, hearing this encouraged her”. As a helper I aim to remain aware of personal blocks to my listening, distractions need to be stopped or at least controlled to avoid interference of the helping process, as it could impair giving my undivided attention, recognising forming judgments without full knowledge would be based on my prejudices and opinions I often lay aside forming opinions when my sons tell me they have a detention, only after hearing what they have to say do I form an opinion. Being unaware of my prejudices & opinions, would not allow me to prioritise my son’s needs over mine.
When a client informed me that her husband was been unfaithful and that she was experiencing domestic violence, verbal and emotional abuse, whilst wanting to advise her to leave him, I resisted the urge, as interrupting would have interfered with both our concentration and my listening, could have affected her sharing her experience and could have caused me to miss non vocal- indicators. Providing information at an inappropriate time in the conversation would have thrown her off course. The above are blocks that could seriously have changed the relationship and atmosphere that has been developed as well as the direction of the conversation. As a helpee I need to remain aware of my listening habits at all times, regularly checking that they are supporting the helpee in the most suitable way. To avoid me becoming distracted, my mind wondering, I subconsciously check the setting is comfortable, private and appropriate for us to talk asking the helpee if they are ok speaking where we are prior to commencing.
Summarising entails pulling together extracts from the conversation and restating them in short statements, avoiding being judgemental or critical, it provides the opportunity for the helpee to correct or expand on what has been said, it shows the helpee that the helper has understood what they have shared, whilst similar to paraphrasing, it is used less often and contains more information. This skill is a quick and easy way of checking for accuracy and is generally used in rounding up sessions. With clients I use it seeking confirmation of what we have discussed, and agreed on, an example of this is when I used the smart goals looking at, what a client wanted to do, being specific about its potential outcome, keeping it achievable and not beyond her reach, recognising what she could realistically do, setting a time scale in which certain steps would be accomplished.
I summarised stating that she wanted to divorce her husband and apply for child maintenance and that she decided that she would make contact with a divorce solicitor and also contact the child support and that we agreed that we review progress made at our next meeting, referring her to csa and the divorce solicitors was because I am aware that these are outside of my limitations and the services referred to would provide more her specialised help. Clarifying entails checking my understanding of what’s been said and resolving any confusion. It reassures the speak that I am interested in them and trying to understand their situation, clarifying could aid the helpee find clarity of their issue as well as a better understanding of themselves. I use it when I am not sure about what has been said, helping me sort out what’s been said and sometimes to aid the helpee prioritise.
I conclude that the skills and knowledge I have gained have helped me both formally and informally, emphasing areas I was oblivious to, but now am conscious of, they have caused me to be self-aware providing me with a vast amount of knowledge and skills that now form a part of my day to day life and has proved to be advantageous when working with families, it has alerted me to my capabilities and limitation and made me realise the effects helping has on me and ways I deal with them. (Word count 2,480)
Skilled helper model – Author: Gerard Egan (2002) Personal centred counselling in action – Author: Dave Mearns and Brian Thorne (1988)