The decision to take this course was rooted in a deepening interest in psychotherapy, self–development, the welfare of other people and in a desire to gain a theoretical base to enrich my current arts and health practice. I understand counselling to be a helping practice that differs from other helping activities, such as teaching for example. Counselling requires professional training and is specifically contracted or explicitly agreed. It has a theoretical base and uses specific methods within an ethical framework.
The relationship between the counsellor and the client is built upon mutual expectation and is central to the process of the client under-going significant change in their lives. Counselling is not giving advice, instruction, information or guidance, such as in the case of teaching. It is not problem solving on the clients behalf nor is it sympathising with the client. There are neither implicit agreements nor reciprocal arrangements. Counselling does not involve making personal judgments or giving opinions, which maybe appropriate in a teaching situation.
The counsellor does not impose conditions upon the client or infringe upon agreed boundaries. This differs enormously from teaching, where strict codes of conduct and boundaries are implemented. Disciplinary action is likely to be faced if the ‘rules’ are broken in a teaching situation. In counselling the boundaries are likely to be mutually agreed for the safe working practice of both the counsellor and client, rather than to instill or teach discipline. The counsellor must also remain impartial and must not have conflicts of interest.
Whilst this may not be so for teachers, teachers and counsellors do share other qualities, such as being attentive, present, available, understanding, supportive, and respectful. Counsellors however seek to empowerment their clients through employing specific skills in active listening and considered responding. Counselling is self-directed (by the client) and therefore does not require expert knowledge of issues and subjects, where as teaching is expert led and requires specialist knowledge in particular fields/subjects.
Counselling ultimately values individuality, diversity and uniqueness – both of the person and their experience. The focus in teaching on the other hand is largely upon the progression and development of the group or class rather than the individual within the group. “People become engaged in counselling when a person, occupying regularly or temporarily the role of the counsellor, offers or agrees explicitly to offer time, attention and respect to another person or persons temporarily in the role of the client.
The task of counselling is to give the client an opportunity to explore, discover and clarify ways of living more resourcefully and towards greater well-being”. Counselling: Definition of Terms in Use with Expansion and Rationale. British Association for Counselling, (1991). In: Sanders, Pete. (Third Edition, 2003, p. 3) First Steps in Counselling (Ross-on-Wye: PCCS Books). Through the course I have gained a basic understanding of three different types of counselling. These are Psychodynamic, Cognitive Behavioural and Person Centred Therapy.
The development of the Person-Centred approach is credited to Carl Rogers. This approach rejects the medical, psychoanalytic model in favour of an egalitarian relationship between the counsellor and client. The quality of this relationship in the immediate term, or the ‘here and now’, is fundamental to significant positive change. The Person Centred approach is non-directive. It relies on the client’s innate intelligence to self express and to engage in a process of change, as they experience therapeutic growth. This process of fulfilling personal human potential is known as self-actualisation.
Three core values have emerged from Rogers’ original six value model that are the prerequisite for this process of change. These are Congruence, Unconditional Positive Regard and Empathy. The roots of Psychodynamic therapy lie in the psychoanalytic work of Freud, Jung and Winnicott. Freud identified a tripartite categorisation of mental processes – the conscious (material within our awareness), the pre-conscious (material that is not within our awareness but is easily accessible) and the sub-conscious material that lies hidden within our psyche) – which is a key concept of this approach.
Freud later made the distinction between the ID – the instinctive and a-moral subconscious drive, the Ego – the rational and conscious mind and the Super Ego – the conscientious aspect of the mind. Psychodynamic counselling focuses on unearthing deep rooted feelings, experiences and defences that lie within the sub-conscious mind, believing that the cause of human distress is created by tension between the Id/ Super Ego and the resulting defences, experiences, incomplete stages of development and unresolved issues from the past – often stemming from early childhood experiences and significant relationships.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is a fusion of Cognitive psychology and Behavioural therapy. Originating in the work of Behavioural psychologists Watson, Skinner and Pavlov, key concepts were later developed in 1960’s by Cognitive psychologists Albert Ellis and Aron Beck. Their techniques lie centred in the theory that feelings and behaviours are governed by our thought processes – both rational and irrational. Emotional disturbances are caused by irrational thought processes, but ultimately that thought processes and human behaviours can be changed through conscious awareness.
I have gained basic listening and considered responding skills during the course such as using minimal encouragers, open ended questions and paraphrasing. Minimal Encouragers are the small words, noises or gestures that encourage someone to carry on speaking. They demonstrate that the counsellor is hearing and understanding what the client is saying, Minimal encouragers allow the client to feel connected to the counselor whilst having space to think, feel and find expression. Minimal encouragers include nodding, leaning forward, ‘mm, uh-huh’ and single words such as ‘so’ or ‘then’.
Open questions are the type of question which facilitates the speaker in further exploration of situations or feelings. Open questions begin with How, Where, When and What and have no right answer. An example of an open question is: What sort of problems do you think you might face if you tried to give up smoking? Open questions help the client to be more specific, help identify problems and their causes, help the counselor gain a clearer understanding of the clients situation, help the client express or explore nderlying emotions and feelings and to encourage further insight. Paraphrasing involves the counsellor repeating back to the client, the essentials or the content and feeling of what he/she has said in the counsellor’s own words. This demonstrates the counsellor’s attentiveness – letting the client know that he/she has been heard and understood. It also gives both the client and counsellor an opportunity to clarify what has been understood – and to correct misunderstandings.
Reflecting back in the counsellor’s own words gives the client an opportunity to hear what they are saying differently, which can lead to new insight. An example of paraphrasing is: “So you have never lost anyone close to you before, so it is a new experience for you. Part of you feels uncertain and on unchartered waters – not knowing how it will all ‘pan out’. I can see that you are quite worried about that”. Where do I want to be in the future? I intend to continue to study counselling through enrolling on a one year part-time course – Level 3 Certificate in Counselling.
I would attend this course once a week with additional home study and continue work as a freelance Dance Artist to support myself financially. On gaining a Level 3 Certificate in Counselling, I will have the entry requirements to enroll on a two-year full time Foundation Degree in Counselling. This allows me the flexibility of choosing the direction of my career in view of my financial situation, as I intend to continue to search for funding to study for an MA in Dance Movement Psychotherapy – for which I applying for entry concurrently.