Counselling is a therapy whereby a person (client) talks about his problems to another person (counsellor) in a conducive confidential environment (NHS 2014, p.1). Counselling is focussed on providing therapy to the psychology of the client with an aim or changing it or focussing it on the various aspects of their problems so as to develop the right mindset needed to solve it. There are various skills that influence the success of counselling sessions. Most of this skills have been covered in the past weekly lessons. This report presents reflections on empathy and advanced accurate empathy, reflection of content and feelings, open and closed questions, tracking clients concerns, normalising, challenging, congruence and facilitating options, report writing and integration of skills as covered from week 2 to 11.
Week 2: Attending Behaviour: Empathy and Advanced Accurate Empathy
The attending behaviour is critical in determining the efficiency of counselling. Attending refers to being attentive to an interaction between two people. On this, the attending behaviour as it related to counselling refers to the attentive interaction between a counsellor and his or her client. The attending behaviour employed by a counsellor influences the strength of the relationship formed between the counsellor and the client. Empathy is a core concept in the attending behaviour that is critical to the formation of this key relationship. Empathy creates a virtual experience where the customer places himself or herself in the situation that the client is undergoing (Elliott, Bohart, Watson & Greenberg 2011, p.44). This enables the counsellor to make a good connection with the challenges that the client is facing and be in a better place to provide appropriate solutions to the client. An unprofessional attending behaviour that contradicts attending behaviour is sympathy where the counsellor tends to feel pity towards the client and his/.her situation. This approach is counterproductive since it plunges the client into deeper problems. Empathic behaviour hence requires that the counsellor takes up the position of the client virtually using the information provided by the client.
Advanced accurate empathy is a second level of empathy where the counsellor digs up into the situation of the client using information, experience and skills gotten from external sources other than the client (Wicks, Parsons & Capps 1993, p.71). Advanced accurate empathy therefore enables the counsellor to connect with the client better since it is possible to identify the underlying factors to a problem that may be unnoticed by the client.
In my future practice as a counsellor, I will use empathic behaviours to build relationships with my clients. In the initial meetings with the client, basic empathy will be used to create relationships. Advanced accurate empathy will in turn be used to create a deeper understanding of the client’s situation in follow up sessions.
Week 3: Reflection Skills: Reflection of Content
Effective communication influences the success of a counselling session. The counsellor should be able to understand what the client means during counselling sessions. On the other hand, it is important that the client feels that the counsellor understands what he or she means. Therefore good communication in counselling ensures that there is a free flow of information between the counsellor and the client. Reflection skills come in handy in this communication process. Reflection is a process in which the counsellor restates the words and feelings of the speaker (Geldard & Geldard 2008, p.53). Reflection is measure of ensuring that the counsellor does not get misinformed about the communication from the client.
From this week’s learning, I learnt about the two main reflection skills namely mirroring and paraphrasing. Mirroring is the reproduction if the words that the client has spoken either in bits or whole. It is meant to show the client that the counsellor understands what he/she is saying. Mirroring should not be taken too far as it can be irritating to the client. The other reflection skill is paraphrasing. Paraphrasing involves the use of own words to restate what the client has said (Geldard & Geldard 2008, p.53). Caution should be taken so as not introduce own ideas and feelings in the reflection.
In my practice as a counsellor, I will use reflection to ensure that I am on the same level ‘page’ with the client. I will practice using paraphrasing and mirroring skills so as to develop an ability to reflect content of the conversations between me and the client. This will be developed hand in hand with my listening and speaking skills.
Reflection of feeling is meant to state the feelings of the client during the progress of a counselling session as perceived by the counsellor. This process is meant to ensure that the counsellor is in touch with the feelings/ emotions of the client, hence being able to understand his or her situation better in be well placed to offer appropriate solutions to it. It is normally hard to reflect feelings especially when the client does not disclose his or feeling verbally. Therefore, feeling reflection skills require that the counsellor be in touch with the verbal and non verbal communication of the client. Reflection of feeling requires two main skills. The first skill is the identification of the clients’ feeling. As pointed out earlier, it involves understanding the verbal and non verbal communication form the client (Koole, Dornan, Aper, Scherpbier, Valcke, Cohen-Schotanus & Derese 2011, p.3). The second skill is the ability to present the feeling verbally in a statement form rather than a question. This gives an option for the client to either agree with the counsellor or give counter indications that give more insight to his/her feelings.
From this week’s learning, I appreciated the critical role played by reflection skills in developing a good relationship between the counsellor and the client. I acknowledged that reflection of feelings enables counsellors to have a deeper understanding of the client’s situation (Hetzner 2013, p.1). I will use reflection of feelings hand in hand with the refection of content, hence being able to improve my attending skills and counselling skills in general.
Counsellors are able to ask get information from their clients by asking questions. For this reason, the skill of asking questions is important to a counsellor. From the lessons learnt on question skills in counselling, it was seen that there are two main types of questions used in counselling namely open and closed questions. Open questions are questions where the respondent (client) is not limited on what and how to answer. Open questions are used when the counsellor wants to get a wide range of information from the client (AIPC 2014, p.1). They also give them opportunities to know more about the client in instances where he or she might deviate from the contexts of the questions asked. On the other hand, close questions are expected to be answered using a specific response (AIPC 2014,p.1). This type of question aims at getting specific information from the respondents. Reframing enables counsellors to make follow ups on previous questions so as to get more information. An example is where an open question may be followed by closed questions so as to get specific information that came up in the broad response given for the former question. Summarising skills in turn come in handy in deducing the important information as gotten from the client’s responses. The summaries form an information base on which the counsellor is able to understand the client better.
Reflecting on the use of open and closed question in my personal life, I came to appreciate its importance in enabling counsellors get information about their clients. I came to realise that I have been using open ended and closed questions all my life in various contexts. Knowing when to ask which type of question at which time comes in handy in enabling me get the maximum possible information from people that interact with. In the future, I will develop my skills in questions asking so as to increase my efficiency as a counsellor.
Counsellors need to develop a good tracking skill. Tracking enables counsellors to follow the communication from the client and identify the clients’ concerns (LeBeauf, Smaby & Maddux 2009,p.35). Tracking requires that counsellors have great attending skills. As seen in week 2, attending skills empower counsellors to be attentive to their interaction with their clients. Tracking requires that counsellors be attentive to the verbal and non verbal communication from the client. Effective tracking is normally a function of all the counselling skills discussed in the previous weeks. Reflection skills give counsellors the ability to understand their clients as much as possible while questions enable them to get a wide range of information. The piecing together of all these pieces of information enable counsellors to track clients’ concerns hence leading to a development of a good connection /relationship between counsellors and their clients (LeBeauf, Smaby & Maddux 2009, p.35).
Reflecting on tracking in my personal life as well as in counselling, I cannot downstate its importance in the creation of a good rapport with the client. Owing to the challenges associated with identifying underlying issues that may have an impact on the current situations faced by clients; it is normally important to take note of any form of communication. This necessitates the integration of various concepts in counselling so as to identify all the client’s concerns. I will work on improving my traction skills by developing the other set of skills required for efficient counselling.
Normalising is a counselling technique that is meant to make clients feel normal. On this point, it is important to note that many feel awkward when they find themselves in situations that are out of their normal lives. This psychological mindset is normally a barrier to their full recovery from the negative attributes associated with their situation (Leon, Lewin & Mathews 2013, p.97). Counsellors use the normalising technique, a continuous process that is meant to assure clients that it their condition us normal for people with the same situation as them (Yeo 2007, 22). On this effect, normalising has an influence on the psychology of the client; making them accept their conditions as they embark on a journey to solve the various challenges facing them.
Reflecting on the concept in everyday life, I appreciate its importance in the healing process of individuals. Sometime back, I invested all my school fees in a small business and was hoping that I would reap back the benefits on time, pay my fees and continue running on the profits generated. However, I was in for rude shock when I lost all my investments due to market forces. Depressed, I went to the students’ counsellor at my school. She made me feel normal after explaining that all business men have to deal with losses. It was after this that I was able to face my problem and depression. I will work on developing the art of normalising situations, no matter how complex they are so as to be of maximum benefit to my clients.
Challenging also referred to as confronting is focuses on mixed messages, feeling, discrepancies or inconsistencies in a client (Berger 2011, p.2). It is usually meant at making the client aware of feelings and behaviours that are counterproductive to a client (Martin 2004, p.1). There are four types of discrepancies that could be displayed by a client during the counselling process namely thoughts & actions, thoughts & feelings, feelings & actions or combined feelings actions and thoughts (Australian Institute of Professional Counsellors 2014, p.1). Challenging clients is meant to develop self awareness. It tends to attract their attention to issues that were previously ignored.
Reflecting on this concept in counselling with respect to real life cases, I can remember of a time when my younger brother was stressed about his poor GPA. He kept complaining that about the poor state of his grades as compared to his friends. I challenged him asking him what he was doing about it. That challenge served as wake up call to him. He enrolled for extra tutorials and developed a personal learning schedule. He was amazed with the transformation of his grades 4 months later. On this concept, I regard it highly in instigating change from within a client. This personal driven change is normally successful as compared to one that is instigated by other factors.
After a series of counselling sessions, it is imperative that the client and counsellor come into congruence on the way forward. Congruence in counselling is reached after the counsellor analyses the situation in which the client is in followed by collective brainstorming by both the client and the counsellor on the best honest way forward to solving a challenge (Grafanaki & McLeod 1995, p.312). After this, counsellors are tasked with the responsibility of facilitating options that are focussed on providing a solution to the challenges at hand (Dewing, Mathews, Schaay & Cloete 2010, p12). Facilitation of options is focused on providing support in the decision making, development of the action plan and follow-up on the process. Decision support is meant to guide the client in the decision making process with respect to the most suitable solution to the challenge at hand. Action plan development entails the laying out of the actual plan that is to be implemented so as to achieve a given set of objectives. Lastly, follow up is meant to ensure that the client stays in the course towards achieving the counselling objectives.
According to me, this week’s lesson marks the solution phase of the counselling process. So as to be of benefit to the client, I must be able to know when I have sufficient information to make a decision about the possible solution to a client’s problem. However, I appreciated the fact that the solution must be developed by both the client and counsellor. On this, the role of the counsellor is that of a facilitator who provides an environment on which appropriate decisions are to be made.
Counselling reports provides records of the counselling sessions that take place between a counsellor and a client (Vetter, Wadden & Chittams 2013, p.20). These reports serve as a knowledge base that is used in future follows ups on the same client. Among the things that should be included in the report are notes, data and background information collected during the sessions, report outlining reason for referral if the case involves such, key observations, recommended plan of action and client’s identification details. Report writing should follow a clear structure and style that enables the readers to understand the client’s situation easily. There is also need to observe confidentiality in instances where the report is to be made available to the public. In such instances the bio data of the client or any other information that make direct relation to the client is removed from the report. So as to develop my report writing skills, I will analyse various counselling reports with various formats. I will also make a point of making a report for all the sessions I do.
There is no single skill that can be termed as more important than others in counselling. For efficient counselling to take place, there is a need for counsellors to integrate various skills in the process. Over the last weeks, various counselling skills have been discusses. Attending behaviour was identified to be important in establishing a good relationship between the client and the counsellor. On this skill, empathy enables counsellors to understand the situations of their clients well. Reflection skills were seen to be useful in ensuring that the counsellor and the client are reading on the same page; hence their understanding of the problem is the same. Open and closed questions were identified to be techniques by which counsellors are able to get information from their clients. On this, counsellors should have good question skills so as to get the maximum possible information from their clients. Normalising was identified as skill that makes a client feel normal in the wake on stress due to the abnormal situations resulting from the problems facing him/her. Challenging was seen as a skill in which a counsellor awakens the attention of the client to discrepancies that were previously ignored. Congruence and facilitating are part of the solution /decision making process that is geared towards providing solutions to the problems facing the client. Lastly, report writing skills enable counsellors present various aspects related to the counselling process in a written form for follow ups. It is important that counsellors integrate all the above skills so as to achieve success in their counselling processes.
In conclusion, this report has been able to give an insight into various counselling skills and concepts. As a summary, it was argued that empathy is a state whereby the counsellor laces himself or herself in the client’s shoes, hence being able to understand the situation at hand better. Reflection was identified to be a skill that enables the counsellor to make sure that he/she understands the client’s situation as the session’s progress. Reflection of content is done using the paraphrasing and mirroring techniques while reflecting feeling requires keen attention to verbal and non verbal content. The reflection paper also gave an insight into questions where it was seen that the use of open and closed questions gives counsellors the ability to collect specific and wide range of information from the client. Normalising was seen to be a process in which a counsellor makes the client feels that his or her condition is normal for people in the same situation. Challenging was identified to be a counselling strategy where the counsellor brings the attention of the client to discrepancies that he/she was not previously aware of. Congruence and facilitating options were identified to be part of providing solutions to the client. From the reflection paper, it can be acknowledged that the success of the counselling processes is a function of the ability of the counsellors to integrate various skills so as to be able to collect as much information from the client as possible, build a relationship with him/her and ultimately provide the most appropriate solution to the client. From the reflection paper, I appreciated the importance of the various skills in influencing the success of counselling. I will work on developing them so as to be more efficient in my career.
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