counseling skillss

The aim of this essay is to reflect on, and critique, the experience of counselling a client. The focus will be on identifying key counselling skills and their importance in the therapeutic alliance between counsellor and client.

The purpose of this is to aid in the development of understanding of the counselling experience and relationship for trainee counsellors. This essay will begin with a summary of the counselling session. This will be followed by a discussion of therapeutic alliance and the importance of basic counselling skills to support that.Identification, and a critique, of the skills displayed will be given including suggestions for improvement and a reflection on my experiences.

This reflection will focus particularly on implications for future development. Throughout, this essay will aim to bring to the reader an understanding of the importance of basic counselling skills in the achieving of an effective therapeutic alliance (Dryden, 2006; Egan, 2007; Geldard & Geldard, 1997; Geldard & Geldard, 2004; Nelson-Jones, 2000; Young & Chromy, 2005).Alliances which are essential to the counsellor/client relationship as they “are predictors of positive outcomes in all treatment programs..

. (and are) more important than the type of therapy or intervention being applied to the client” (Daddario et al, 2001-2009, p2). In summary, the counselling session I taped with Alex as my client began with an existing empathy and rapport between us due to a pre-existing relationship. This enabled Alex to enter into phase one of Egan’s (2007), helping model quickly and with ease.

Throughout the remainder of the session Alex moved back and forth between the current picture and the preferred picture, phase one and two of the helping model (ibid). The session concluded (after the tape cut off), with Alex identifying specific tasks he would undertake, an action plan. This is an indicator of phase three of Egan’s model – the way forward, or alternately a focus on behaviour (Geldard & Geldard, 2005, p141). The session began with me feeling awkward, feeling that time was not passing and feeling a degree of discomfort.

There were unconscious thoughts intruding upon my attentiveness i. e. “oops I should be minimal responding not staring glassy eyed at him”. it is my belief that this was due to my awareness of the video camera and a consciousness of being ‘judged’ via my assessment.

As I relaxed into the session however it flowed smoothly and comfortably, the time flew and Alex left with a self initiated plan of action to work with that he was excited about.In 1957 Rogers (in Feller & Cottone, 2003 & The Schizo-Stroller, 2009), indicated six conditions of the therapeutic alliance necessary for effective client change, and hypothesised that these apply to all forms of therapy. Prior to this the approach to therapy was based on a technical or skills based process (The Schizo-Stroller, 2009). Out of the changes that have occurred during the intervening years, Bedi (2004, p3), states that “whereas the concept of therapeutic alliance emerged out of psychodynamic thought, it is now commonly investigated as a cross-theoretical component of all counselling and psychotherapy approaches”.

A key component in establishing this is who counsels, rather than how counselling occurs, and this relies on empathy, (Dryden, 2006; Egan, 2007; Feller & Cottone, 2003; Geldard & Geldard, 1997; Geldard & Geldard, 2004; Johns, 1996; Nelson Jones, 2005; Young & Chromy, 2005), the “core building block of any meaningful counselling conversation” (McLeod, 2007, p137), which is achieved through the development and effective utilisation of basic counselling skills.It is these skills that enable a counsellor to utilise empathic understanding (Egan, 2007, p100), to assist clients in understanding self, problem situations and opportunities. These basic skills are related to communication, listening and non-verbal behaviour (McLeod, 2003; Geldard & Geldard, 1997; Geldard & Geldard, 2004; Young & Chromy, 2005), and consist of specific skills such as the establishment of rapport, minimal responses, attentive and active listening, reflecting meaning and feelings, reframing, open questions and confronting (ibid).In the process of undertaking the taped session, I effectively used a number of counselling skills which served to establish and maintain rapport.

This was supported by the existing relationship with this client however was strengthened by the following: * The establishment of a calm, light space with chairs placed at an appropriate distance for physical comfort whilst retaining an intimacy. * A warm welcome, “Good to see you again Alex, thanks for coming” which included an open posture and a light grasping of Alex’s hand when we shook hands at his arrival. A body position that mirrored his own and attentive silence whilst Alex spoke. * Gestures and facial expressions such as nodding, raising eyebrows, smiling and hand movements and appropriate eye contact.

The appropriate use of these skills helps to support the counsellor in conveying warmth, displaying interest and attention and creating a safe environment for the client’s successful self exploration (Young & Chromy, 2005, p28). This was also supported by the use of verbal minimal responses acknowledging the clients story and encouraging their continuation of that story (Geldart and Geldart, 1997). I think I get, I got a feeling of being valued through my line manager because until I got allocated to this project I was constantly allocated to new projects that needed sorting out and I went in (okay), went in and did the job (yes), and get reassigned to something else when I was finished so..

. (yep, yep), so I felt I was a valuable person for handling these type of…

. (yep), ahh mainly issues that had kind of gone off the rails (hmm) so…

” .This is generally a natural way of responding in communication when we are listeners (ibid), however minimal responses are consciously used by the counsellor as a form of passive empathy; “to convey an acknowledgement of what is being said” (McLeod, 2007, p140). Other skills in communication engage the counsellor in active rather than passive empathy whereby the counsellor “puts into language how one intuits the other is feeling..

. when no feeling occurs to us we can actively search out the others feelings until we are close” (in McLeod, 2007, p140).Skills that are used in this way include paraphrasing, respectful responding, closed and open questions, reframing and clarifying (Brammer & MacDonald, 2003; Burnard, 1999, 2005: Egan, 2007; Geldard & Geldard, 1997; Geldard & Geldard, 2004; Young & Chromy, 2005). Skills used to engage in active empathy that were used in my session with Alex are identified in the verbatim examples given below.

* Clarifying; “Do you feel that Kathy did what she did with an intent to cause harm to people? I ask that question out of the ord you used – vindictiveness”. * Probing (open question); “Can you tell me a little bit about how that feels? ” * Summarising; “You have set a goal you would love to be experiencing which is having your work valued”. * Checking Out; “And would I be right in calling that a personal cost? ” * Identifying and Acknowledging Strengths; “You and I both know that you have some extreme strengths in your relationships with co workers that we have talked about before. I know you have the ability for open communication.

I also know that you are extremely sensitive and patient and you have a great deal of empathy towards others and their situations and can see things from both sides. So these are strengths I know you have used in the past”. * Respectful Reflection: 1. Meaning (paraphrasing); “Okay, so your picture is that Kathy was passing the buck for what wasn’t working rather than taking the responsibility she owned as the manager for that project”.

2. Feeling; “You felt very, very upset, potentially hurt?.. nd angry because you were accused of things that you felt were either out of your control or were not something that you owned in the first place”.

* Confronting; (about not speaking to his line manager), “You chose not to keep that living so strongly within the people with whom you work. It seems to me though, that it is still living fairly strongly within you”. * Redirecting; “I asked you to share the picture of how you would like things to look and you told me what you would have liked it to look like before this happened. This has happened.

How would you love it to look now? ” * Interpreting; “So it’s an experience you have had a long history of? ” In evaluating the success of this session I engaged the client by using a copy of the Session Rating Scale (Miller, Duncan and Johnson, 2006), as indicated in Egan (2007, p42), (See appendix A) . In assessing my effectiveness of the application of the skills used this SRS is a key indicator for me that during this session my use of the skills came together in a manner that supported the client through offering understanding and unconditional acceptance (Daddario et. l. , 2001-2009), and enabled a feeling of collaboration towards realistic goals by focussing on the clients issues and experiences (Young & Chromy, 2005, p15).

A series of feelings and actions however indicate to me that in the beginning of the session my attentiveness wavered a few times. Very early in the session, approximately three and a half minutes in, I found me feeling a real sense of discomfort that indicated my lack of focus. My thoughts were on myself rather than Alex. In becoming conscious of this I was able to let those thoughts go and relax into the session.

Only a couple of minutes later I interrupted Alex (see bold below), when a longer pause would have been more appropriate; “You still continue to work closely with Kathy? ” “Well, she’s my day to day… She manages me on a day to day basis” “Yes” “Uhmmm” (I think) and she sits quite close you know, she is only just behind me”.

This occurred due to my focus moving from the moment into worrying about what I needed to say next. At just after seven minutes into the session I found myself again losing attentiveness momentarily as thoughts of time entered my head and I realised I was clock watching.At this point my eyes can be seen flickering across to the clock behind the flowers on the table. At approximately nine minutes into the session Alex was talking about his project manager complaining to his line manager.

His line manager was actually absent at the time and the stand in was a colleague. This opened a gap or inconsistency that I did not followed through although I was able to return to it at a later time when I asked “ Your line manager wasn’t present at the time to be the person that dealt with it, …

Has there been any opportunity since then for you to talk to your line manager about it? . This then led to an opportunity to confront Alex with an inconsistency; “You chose not to keep that living so strongly within the people with whom you work. It seems to me though, that it is still living fairly strongly within you”. Shortly after this came another moment of opportunity to take Alex deeper into his feelings that I failed to recognise.

Alex stated that “I believe that kind of thing can happen again if I am not constantly vigilant”. This was a strong statement that potentially indicating insecurity, anxiety or fear that I missed the chance to respectfully respond to.Another example of a missed opportunity for respectful responding occurred when Alex said; “Perhaps I’m sort of, sort of you know, uhhhm, you know, such that I need some sort of recognition to feel happy in a workplace. Perhaps this ((laugh) Oh you mean you’re human) never happens”.

I had missed a key word – never – that indicated the depth of Alex’s feeling regarding this issue, by interrupting. Alex then spoke quite strongly “Well no, I mean it” Fortunately due to the strength of our rapport this led to further deepening rather than the potential loss of trust and closing down that could have occurred. I don’t think the workplaces that I’ve worked in for the last twenty five years have been the sort of places that, where positive feedback is something that happens”. At another point in time I missed an opportunity to open the window for Alex more fully than it already was.

After he had indicated two options he felt he had, if responded with;“Which of those two would you really like to have happen”. If the opportunity came again I would like to respond with a more open question such as; “Are either of these two choices what you would really like to have happen? , potentially leaving the opportunity for more brainstorming open. Apart from the positive response from Alex on the session Response Scale, there are other indicators of the success of this session. After asking Alex to share his picture of how he would like things to look, I felt he redirected himself back into stage one with more storytelling.

I redirected this; “I asked you to share the picture of how you would like things to look and you told me what you would have liked it to look like before this happened. This has happened. How would you love it to look now? , which led to a new direction from Alex and the revealing of what I felt was the core issue for the session; “I guess what I’d like is some occasional feedback to the effect that I’m doing well, uhmm which is completely absent from, from, I’m doing what I can and basically it’s accepted but not acknowledged or, and basically I receive no praise or anything for what I do. So I’m never quite sure if I’m doing the right thing or not, so I feel pretty insecure i guess.

Uhmmm ideally I’d like to uhmm receive a bit of positive feedback”.What Alex needed was to feel valued and have his efforts and results recognised. A further indicator of successful use of basic skills occurred after I had reflected meaning back to Alex; ”Okay, so your picture is that Kathy was passing the buck for what wasn’t working rather than taking the responsibility she owned as the manager for that project”, and he responded with; “Yeh, that’s very much, that’s very much it! Yeh (pause) and as you said that I felt a wave of relaxation come over me, I felt physically relaxed to have it put in those terms”. nother indicator of success was the point when Alex was able to identify for himself the potential gains and losses of his choices; “I’m conflicted cause you know, although the project is, you know, difficult and challenging, you know like that.

It is this new technology that I think is a very valuable tool to have under my belt… .

.. so there is a benefit for the cost of putting up with this, of this discomfort I guess”.In conclusion the counselling session I taped supported the clients own drive to identify a solution, offered both understanding and unconditional acceptance and acknowledged and praised the client (Daddario et.

l. , 2001-2009; Dryden, 2006; Egan, 2007; Feller & Cottone, 2003; Geldard & Geldard, 1997; Geldard & Geldard, 2004; Nelson Jones, 2005; Young & Chromy, 2005). Through (mostly) successful utilisation of basic counselling skills, the client was enabled, allowing them to engage as a collaborator in their own healing process. This is of utmost importance in a counsellor/client relationship as “helping is not something that helpers do to clients; rather it is a process that helpers and clients work through together” (Egan ,2007, p49).

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