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Defining Counselling
Skills

 

 

Within
counselling the counsellor is aware that everyone, due to their personal
experience of the world, will understand different things in different
ways. It is important that the counsellor does not try to fit clients into
their idea of what they should be or how they should act instead enabling the
client to explore aspects of their life and feelings by talking openly and
freely. Talking in such a way is rarely possible with family or friends, who
are likely emotionally involved or in position of opinions and biases that may
be detrimental to the success of the counselling. It is important therefore
that the counsellor is not emotionally involved with the client and does not
become so during counselling sessions. The counsellor neither judges nor offers
advice instead simply gives the client an opportunity to express difficult
feelings such as anger, resentment, guilt or fear in a confidential
environment. Mearns, in ‘Person-Centred Therapy Today’ (Mearns & Thorne,
2008), highlights this foundation by asserting that “Part of the discipline of
the person-centred approach is not to make assumptions about the client’s
appropriate process, but to follow the process laid out by the client.”

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Counselling
is therefore known as a ‘helping approach’ which is used to highlight the
emotional and intellectual experience of a client as well as how a client is
feeling and their views on the issue that they need help with. The role between
client and counsellor has been consistently highlighted as of primary significance
in therapeutic practice with an effective relationship being represented by the
presence of a defined series of counsellor attitudes or; with these attitudes
and skills in place it can be argued that psychological growth within the
client or their fluid progress towards ‘self-actualisation’ is much more likely
to occur.

 

Sanders,
in ‘Counselling Skills In Context’ (Aldridge & Rigby, 2001) describes these
counselling attitudes and skills as “…interpersonal communication skills derived
from the study of therapeutic change in human beings, used in a manner
consistent with the goals and ethics of the profession of the practitioner in
question. In addition, the user of counselling skills will find that their own
professional skills are enhanced by the process.”

 

The
use of these skills should empower both the listener and the person being listened
to. The skill of being empathic or communicating understanding of another’s
perspective for example shows respect for that individual and is an integral
part of building a working relationship. The use of counselling skills not only
encourages the listener to participate and enter dialogue but also enables the
user to listen to another in such a way as to remove any doubt that they are
completely focussed on them and them alone. This may include simple things such
as verbal nods to communicate understanding or appropriate eye contact to show
interest or it may involve more specific techniques such as reflecting or paraphrasing
which can serve both to clarify that the listener understands correctly as well
as clarify the thinking of the person listened to. Summarising is similar to
both reflecting and paraphrasing with the exception that it feeds back an overall
picture rather than one specific point. This assures the listener that the
whole issue is being followed and again gives the listener the opportunity to reflect
upon it potentially enabling them to see a fresh perspective; the skills should
be used in a way that makes the listened to feel safe, comfortable, free from
judgement and not simply unloading information without being truly heard.

Outline The Different Roles Within Which
Counselling Skills Could Be Used

 

 

It
can be accepted then that counselling skills are not limited to trained counsellors
alone but can, in fact, be used in many professions due to the overlap between
the positions of a trained counsellor and those simply using counselling
skills; nurses are often faced with anxious or upset patients / relatives where
the ability to listen and respond empathically will aid them greatly in
situations where they might otherwise find themselves helpless. Teachers faced
with an upset child can use active listening to ascertain the causal,
underlying problems the child is facing or a care worker for the elderly may
learn to manage silence in conversation so that the person listened to can have
the time to explain their real and a pastoral worker in a church can learn to
practice counselling skills not to feel powerless in the face of distress from
grieving relatives. From social workers to HR managers to the police service
counselling skills can be used to empower both the helper and the helped and
enable individuals to deal more effectively with issues for themselves and
their environments. Each person’s pain is individual; A couple facing
infertility treatment might benefit and gain insight into the workings of their
relationship and each other’s personal distress around issues often not spoken
about. A person suffering bereavement may experience a more powerful and
immediate need to come to terms with the loss of a loved one and the
helplessness, anger and feelings of loss that this might leave them with. An
addict might gain better understanding of their motivation to use substances or
the underlying feelings that inform their addiction and an adult survivor of
child abuse might want to come to terms with the anger they feel towards their
abuser.

 

 

Explain The Differences
Between Someone Who uses Counselling Skills And A Qualified Counsellor

Counselling is not advice giving or persuasion; advice might not be appropriate
to the client’s needs as it will be given from the perspective of the
counsellor and persuasion may result in conflict with the client and in doing
so affect the therapeutic relationship adversely; a nurse might be able to give
advice without fear of this from a medical perspective however a counsellor
should avoid this.

 

There
will often be an overlap between the trained counsellor and the person that
uses counselling skills. The primary difference can be seen in the intention
behind their use; those who use counselling skills are primarily taking on
another more defined role, be it nurse, doctor, social worker, priest or even
friend. The counsellor however will have one role and one role only and will not
be primarily concerned with making a client physically better through medicine
or attending to their spiritual needs. The BACP poses two questions that can be
used to ascertain the role being undertaken:
 

·        
Are
you using counselling skills to enhance your communication with someone but
without taking the role as their counsellor?

 

·        
Does
the recipient see you as acting within your professional / caring role?

 

Answering
yes to both questions would indicate that
the readers primary function is not that of a counsellor.

 

If
someone is seen primarily as a nurse, pastor or teacher then they cannot, by definition,
also be a counsellor. The counsellor and client should be in no doubt over
their prescribed roles in the relationship; the counsellor and client should
have a contract outlining such issues as how often the counselling will take
place, where, methods of payment, supervision, referral and the remits of the
confidentiality process as well as reference to the BACP Ethical Framework for
Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy. The client should be in no
doubt that the relationship is a professional one and will remain so for the
duration of the counselling.

Bibliography

 

 

Aldridge,
S. and Rigby, S. Eds. (2001) Counselling Skills in Context, Hodder and
Stoughton

 

British
Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists (2010) Ethical Framework for
Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy, BACP

 

Frankland,
A and Sanders, P. (1995) Next Steps in Counselling, Glasgow: PCCS Books

 

Hough,
M. (1998) Counselling Skills and Theory, Hodder and Stoughton

 

McLeod,
J. (2009) An Introduction to Counselling, McGraw Hill: Open University Press

 

Mearns,
D. and Thorne, B. (2000) Person-Centred Therapy Today: New Frontiers In Theory &
Practice, Sage Publications

 

Mearns,
D. and Thorne, B. (1998) Person-Centred Counselling In Action, Sage Publications

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