Personal Position Paper The job of a qualified counsellor is one that is based on tailoring an approach that is suited to the client’s individual needs while taking into consideration their personality. A counsellor is in a position whereby their personal characteristics, values and beliefs may either promote or prevent the development of the counselling process.
My personal belief system in regard to the development of a productive counselling process agrees with the Humanistic Psychologist Carl Rogers (1902-1987) who placed a very strong emphasis on the need for a counsellor to think of their clients as people rather than impersonal entities (Geldard & Geldard, 2009b). In this paper I will discuss my personal belief system in regard to the importance of congruency, empathy, and unconditional positive regard, which were put forward by Carl Rogers as the three necessary and sufficient qualities of the counselling relationship for effective outcomes (Geldard & Geldard, 2009a).
In my daily life I am constantly making judgements which are based on my personal values and the ways in which I believe people should behave in given situations. As a prospective counsellor these personal characteristics, values and beliefs I hold will have an effect on the counselling process directly and indirectly and this effect will manifest the counselling process either consciously or unconsciously. In order for my clients to feel comfortable in the counselling relationship it will be essential that I act natural and do not promote myself as being in a position of power in comparison to the client.
If my client’s intuition tells them that they are being judged and examined they are likely to back away. As a prospective counsellor I can prevent this from happening by allowing my clients to see me as the person I am and not as just a trained counsellor devoid of feelings. This will ease my client’s curiosity about my life outside of the client-counsellor relationship and enable them to see me as a human being with whom they can relate to and express their feelings without being judged critically.
This approach will enable me to draw on my own life experiences, and by listening to what my clients have to say I will be better equipped to interpret their thought patterns. This will give me an insight into the larger picture and enable me to see the world in which my client is living in. I feel that this approach takes away the uncomfortable clinical side of other counselling approaches where the client is left feeling ashamed, demoralised and ultimately unable to open up to the counsellor.
This point was illustrated by Geldard & Geldard (2009b) who said: ‘’As a counsellor [one] could throw away his counsellor mask and be true to himself…genuine in all regards…then the relationship will be enhanced and the counselling process is likely to be more effective’’ (p. 14). Removal of any kind of facade is going to enable my clients to see what I am feeling and they will know that I am empathic about their life situation. Empathy can be described as having an ability to enter into your client’s worldview and understand their feelings, emotions and meanings in life.
Carl Rogers said on empathy that: To be with another in this way means that for the time being you lay aside the views and values you hold for yourself in order to enter another’s world without prejudice. In some sense it means that you lay aside yourself and this can only be done by a person who is secure enough in himself that he knows he will not get lost in what may turn out to be the strange or bizarre world of the other, and can comfortably return to his own when he wishes (p. 3).
A good way I can show my empathy without having to say a word to my client is through non-verbal cues such as eye contact and attentive body language such as leaning, gestures, and facial expressions. This area is one of my stronger characteristics as I am a very observant individual and I often pay attention to body language in my daily interactions. As this is only a natural part of who I am it will come across unobscured to my clients and they will know they are being understood through my non-verbal cues.
Ivey, Ivey & Zalaquett (2010) noted that: ‘’Attention is a powerful reinforcer. It is the connective force of conversations …We usually know when someone is not attending to us’’ (p. 63). It is also important for me to keep in mind that although I may often relate well to my client’s situations it is essential that I try to remain emotionally detached from my clients as I am required to give judgement free, unbiased advice and this can be haltered through having a personal relationship with each client.
As a prospective counsellor it is important that I never impose my views on my clients nor should I pretend to be an expert in areas that I have little understanding of, otherwise I will find myself operating outside my field of competency. In acknowledging that my clients may find comfort in beliefs and values that do not fit my understanding about certain races, ethnicity, or religion it is necessary to either ask them to tell me a little about it or otherwise I may find that I may need to refer my client to a counsellor whom is familiar with their background (Ivey, Ivey & Zalaquett, 2010).
I have an advantage point in taking in another’s culture because of my own diverse ethnicity and cultural background. I am an Australian girl who is not actually part of any religion, however my mother is an Irish lady with Catholic beliefs and my father is a Lebanese Muslim. With this multicultural background I have been a part of each side of my parent’s cultural festivities and although they differ dramatically I appreciate both equally and have integrated the two of them into becoming the Australian that I am.
Regardless of the clients culture, which often influences the person that they are it is important that I maintain unconditional positive regard and encourage my clients to be self-determined without imposing my characteristics, values and beliefs upon them. By guiding my clients to set their own goals I will be giving them the autonomy to make their own choices and ultimately the power to control their lives efficiently. Ivey, Ivey & Zalaquett (2010) stated that ‘’Part of the interviewing competence is recognizing that you can’t do it all.
Very few of us can work with all clients and all issues. When you sense a challenging problem, seek appropriate supervision from qualified professionals’’ (p. 35). In summing up as a counsellor I should not allow my personal characteristics, values and beliefs to compromise the counsellor-client relationship in any way. A successful counselling process will require a combination of interpersonal skills, sufficient knowledge about the issues involved, and a host of personal attributes.
As a counsellor I must learn to balance and adopt this information while remaining confident in my own competence at facilitating the counsellor-client relationship. Through my own life experiences I will be better able to demonstrate empathy and unconditional positive regard toward my clients and guide them along their own path in life to their destiny. References Geldard, D. , & Geldard, K. (2009a). What Is Counselling? In Geldard, D. , & Geldard, K. Basic Personal Counselling: A training manual for counsellors (6th ed. p. 3-11). Sydney, Australia: Prentice Hall. Geldard, D. , & Geldard, K. (2009b). The counselling Relationship in Geldard, D. , & Geldard, K. Basic Personal Counselling: A training manual for counsellors (6TH ed. , p. 12-20). Sydney, Australia: prentice Hall. Ivey, A. E. , Ivey, M. B. , & Zalaquett, C. P. (2007). Intentional Interviewing & Counselling. (7th ed. ). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole, Cengage Learning. Rogers, C. R. (1975). Empathic: An unappreciated Way of Being. The counselling Psychologist, 5, 2-10.