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...