I think Pete Sanders describes this skill succinctly and well when he says: “Reflection is the basic skill of emphatic understanding and at its most simple involves reflecting the content of the other person’s utterance back to them.” (2011, p 108). I’m discovering that you need to employ your active listening skills fully to pick up the key aspects (content and/or feelings) of the speaker’s story or issue and offer them back to help clarify a point or issue. This can help acknowledge and show understanding of where the person is at so they can move on or elaborate a point. Very recently, during my second experience in trio work as counsellor, I could have used reflecting more effectively at the beginning of the session, to help me understand and establish the client’s story/content: the client was describing a fairly complex background to a family situation that was upsetting her and she felt uncertain about what to do. To start with I didn’t understand the situation fully and felt a bit confused with her story. The client was feeling upset for her Mother who she felt was being treated badly by her son in law, and stated that she felt like she was stuck in the middle and didn’t know what to do. Not grasping the situation fully, I stated “I’m not sure I understand why you are feeling stuck in the middle?” The feedback I received after around that question was that it sounded like I was saying ‘why should she be feeling that way’ and not that I didn’t understand the background situation that was making her feel that way. Reflecting on the content of the background story at that point would’ve been much more effective e.g. “I’m hearing that you’re feeling anxious about the way your brother in law is treating your Mother, and that you’re feeling stuck in the middle and uncertain about what to do. I’m not sure I understand why he’s been turning up and expecting her to cook for him while he’s living with his own family though”. By acknowledging what the client was feeling and gaining a bit more clarity around the family situation by more reflection, would’ve been much more helpful and emphatic for the client at the start, and shown her that I was aware of her feelings and trying to understand the background to the situation.
Immediacy is a key skill for a counsellor to develop, inviting the speaker to explore and verbalise their feelings at that moment in time with the counsellor, truthfully in the here-and-now. The helper being aware, sensing and sharing in a sensitive way how they think the speaker may be really feeling, or how they themselves are feeling in relation to what the speaker is saying at the time (even if the speaker is showing no emotion). For the helper it involves taking a risk, of feeling vulnerable as they may have got it wrong, or the helper may not want to explore those feelings. (H. Baker 2009, p 6). I have not experienced immediacy to a large extent in the role play exercises so far. I think I’m blocking this ability and stopping the flow during the class sessions...