To What Extent Is a Counsellor More Than Just a Good Listener? Essay

To what extent is a counsellor more than just a good listener? - To What Extent Is a Counsellor More Than Just a Good Listener? Essay introduction?? In your discussion we would like you to draw on key elements that form the practise of counselling. In addition we would like you to consider your own qualities and skills and identify what you need to do to progress in the profession. This century has seen a rise in counselling services. We have counsellors for specific diseases, addictions, depression, divorce, name the problem and we seem to have a ‘therapist’ for it. So what are counsellors? Do we need them?

Is that not what friends and family are for, to listen and help us through difficult times? Is a counsellor just a ‘paid friend’? Can anyone be a counsellor? After all anyone can listen, we do it all the time. Counsellors developed from the medical profession taking over the care of the mentally vulnerable from family friends and small societies when the industrial revolution swept across the developed world and fragmented communities. Early pioneers like Freud, Watson, Jung, and Rogers drew from backgrounds in science, arts, religion and philosophy to develop Psychological Theories.

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In 1986 Karasu noted 400 distinct models of Counselling/Psychotherapy. From the three main approaches of Psychodynamics, Cognitive Behaviour, and Humanistic theories many branches have sprouted and, as practitioners blend ideas to develop new techniques and discard those they find ineffectual, Counselling continues to grow and develop. A benefit of a counsellor is that they are neutral. They can be objective and have no preconceived ideas about what you should say or feel thus enabling you to air thoughts that are more difficult to reveal to family or friends for fear of judgement.

A counsellor will use approaches, either singularly or in combination, to focus on listening and understanding the client thus helping them make sense of their life difficulties in a safe and non judgemental environment. Unlike other professions which may include forms of counselling alongside their main job (teachers, nurses, social workers, etc), Counsellors focus on nothing else. What makes a good listener into a Counsellor? Some qualities suggested are Empathy, Sincerity, Integrity, Resilience, Respect, Humility, Competence, Wisdom and Courage.

Are Counsellors born with these? Can they be taught or are the honed through training? Guggenbuhl-Craig 1971 and Rippere and Williams 1985 suggested the therapist as a ‘wounded healer’ with their Skills derived from an inner loss or pain allowing them to feel the client’s pain. Many counsellors train after an encounter with therapy and it is perhaps no coincidence that many nurses, teachers and social workers are drawn to counselling. Are empathy and good listening skills more important than training?

It is undoubtedly important to listen instinctively and non-judgementally, empathising and making your client fell comfortable, encouraging them to open up; training will sharpen theses skills. Having a good knowledge base in one or even a few theoretical perspectives helps make sense of what the client sees as the problem and gives tools and techniques to help them see that perspective and change, if that’s what they want. Whatever approach is taken, Counsellor training is normally carried out within an ethical framework.

The framework referred to in this work is that supplied by the BACP. No matter how good a listener you are or how empathic, it can be difficult to deal with the floods of vulnerability, damage and emotion that clients can have. The aims of counselling are that, in a non-judgemental and safe environment, clients will be supported and trusted to develop and use their own inner resources, becoming self determining and using their own internal locus of evaluation to follow a path and make their own decisions.

Although counsellors tend to choose a theoretical approach which suits their view of life and each approach can have stricter or more lax views on boundaries, the ethical framework is in place to help protect both client and counsellor. Boundaries are considered essential in the framework so that both parties know what to expect i. e. the time and length of session, cost, what is on offer and how things will progress. Some perspectives prefer strong boundaries whereby psychoanalysts interact less, letting themselves be the blank canvas for the client to project onto.

Though it may be that, as therapy progresses, boundaries may be relaxed. Humanistic counsellors tend to become more involved and less rigid in their approach. It is important to get a verbal agreement on the boundaries to preclude misunderstandings on both sides. Key values within the framework also include respecting the dignity and rights of the client; integrity is essential for trust and respect and a sound knowledge base constantly updated ensures appropriate techniques or interventions to help diminish the suffering and distress of the client.

Confidentiality is crucial, the client must be aware that he is free and safe, in a non-judgemental environment, to express all views and feelings knowing permission will be sought to share anything unless there is a fear of danger to self or others. Working within an ethical framework like this will help both client and counsellor to achieve the most from the relationship. Empathy, good listening, and appropriate nonverbal communication coupled with good language skills are developed alongside being able to divorce personal beliefs in order to accept how the client looks at the world.

Paraphrasing, asking open questions, checking clarification and summarising at points in the session are validation techniques that help to ensure an understanding of what the client is saying and help them to see that you are trying to view things as they see it. Knowledge of interventions coupled with the ability to assess their effectiveness and to see where they fit into the wider picture of the client’s experience is good working practice and encourages a good therapeutic relationship.

McLeod 1990 reviewed research as did Orlinsky et al1994 showing that, the better the relationship with the counsellor, the more positive the outcome for the client. Agnew et al 1994 found that a counsellor’s willingness to explore any tensions and to accept any responsibility for problems in the therapeutic relationship, working towards repairing the relationship where necessary, is crucial as it also helps clients establish if there are parallels in life and how they can be worked out.

Of course, people are individuals and, with so many therapeutic approaches and therapist styles, not all will suit everybody. As found while following links on the course discussion forum, therapy is a subjective experience, highlighted by the different views expressed regarding individual counsellors on the course DVD. Whilst some students found the male counsellor wooden and the female more relaxed and focused, others regarded the lady as appearing critical and found the male more relaxed. However, when an individual is referred by their GP, they often have no choice regarding which therapist they see. 086 words I started a Psychology degree to help with the counselling I found myself doing at work and now realise that, whilst good listening skills are a solid foundation, there is so much more to therapy I fall into a few categories that Henry1966; Burton 1970; Spurling and Dryden 1989; discussed. I am a minority being Irish. I have and continue to travel and live in different cultures and countries and was hospitalised for periods of time as a child. My job as a nurse frequently involves counselling and I have found my self more drawn to that aspect.

Frequently in my community I find myself sought out for ‘advice’ or a ‘chat’ which usually involves letting the person talk then asking them what outcome they want and what they feel that they need to do to get there and directing them to more appropriate agencies if required. I know I have good listening skills and that I put people at ease enough to relax and talk. I know my limitations and make sure that those talking to me know I am a nurse not a trained counsellor and confidentiality is ingrained through my nursing. The body and mind are so linked that it is difficult to have physical health without mental health.

I have thought long and hard about my choices and now feel I am at a point in my life where I would like to move from physical help and healing to psychological help. I see the importance of operating within an ethical framework in order to protect both the client and the professional and also the need to have peer support to help keep perspective and avoid burnout. Whilst feedback lets me know I possess the qualities of empathy, sincerity, integrity, respect, resilience, humility, and courage, I need to develop competence and wisdom.

This study has made me aware of the need for a sound knowledge base of appropriate interventions and to remember to keep the overall picture in view. It has also made me aware that the perspectives can be mixed and matched to create a personal style. Professional training will build on my natural talents, honing a good counsellor. I know I am a good listener and problem solver however I am not a counsellor. I know my limitations, and when and where to direct someone for appropriate help. As a friend, it is not so easy to back away from another’s problems accept you can’t help.

Friends bring their own agendas to the table which can sometimes make things worse. While most problems can be sorted with a friend over a cup of tea, often in life we need someone objective who can look at the bigger picture and help and support us in deciding what the problem is, thus enabling us to take control of our lives again. 475 words (1561 words in total)

References:

Karusu 1986, p17, An Introduction to Counselling in McLeod, J. (2008). Introduction to Counselling [Ed. D. Langdridge], Maidenhead/Milton Keynes, Open University Press/The Open University. Guggenbuhl-Craig 1971; Rippere and Williams 1985, p265, The skills and qualities of the effective counsellor in McLeod, J. (2008) Introduction to Counselling [Ed. D. Langdridge], Maidenhead/Milton Keynes, Open University Press/The Open University. McLeod 1990, p208, Introduction: the counselling relationship as a key theme in contemporary theory and practice in McLeod, J. (2008). Introduction to Counselling [Ed. D. Langdridge], Maidenhead/Milton Keynes, Open University Press/The Open University. Orlinsky et al. 1994, p209, Introduction: the counselling relationship as a key theme in contemporary theory and practice in McLeod, J. (2008).

Introduction to Counselling [Ed. D. Langdridge], Maidenhead/Milton Keynes, Open University Press/The Open University. Agnew p225 The counselling relationship in McLeod, J. (2008). Introduction to Counselling [Ed. D. Langdridge], Maidenhead/Milton Keynes, Open University Press/The Open University. Henry 1966, Burton 1970, Spurling and Dryden 1989, p265 The skills and qualities of the effective counsellor in McLeod, J. (2008). Introduction to Counselling [Ed. D. Langdridge], Maidenhead/Milton Keynes, Open University Press/The Open University. The Open University (2008) D171 Developing Counselling Skills DVD, Milton Keynes, The Open University.

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