Counselling a stranger can be difficult, counselling a friend is fraught with difficulties. I found this practice session particularly challenging as I asked a very old friend to play the part of the client. I understand as a result of this session why being a therapist for family and close friends is not advised. Even though I was playing the role of the counsellor, my inner self was in a constant tug-of-war between being a friend and keeping a professional step back as required by a counsellor. The session took place in the home of the client. Her two-year-old daughter was in attendance. This made the session difficult as we were interrupted throughout. There are times in the taping of the session that required us to stop the filming as her daughter was fascinated by the camera and would walk up to it singing and laughing at herself. It was difficult to keep the session fluid as a result. My client, Janet, came to the session wishing to discuss problems she was having with her ex-husband and also the impact this was having on her three daughters. In watching the session, there were some things I did well, others not so well and a couple I should not have. I listened actively, this lead me to being able to ask appropriate questions allowing Janet to expand further. I believe that rapport was established and maintained. I employed empathy, this was a struggle. Whilst I did ask appropriate questions, there were times when instead of questioning I should have been feeding back. I interrupted Janet in parts, thereby cutting off her being able to go forward. In suggesting to Janet “couple / parenting counselling” I denied Janet the opportunity to set her own goal. In practice sessions throughout this module I have when working with ‘clients’ who more acquaintances than friend I was able to effectively employ empathy, and allow them to set their own goals. Originally I was to use another person for the taping of this session; unfortunately she had a family emergency, which necessitated having Janet as my client. This I believe is the reason I inadvertently offered her a solution as a friend would.
Lewis and Graham (2006) explain that the receiver of message must not believe that active listening is easy or happens naturally; rather they come to the realisation that listening effectively and actively is hard work. Although I had been practicing active listening through this and the last module I still found it hard work throughout this session. This was partly because of the interruptions by the two year old and partly because I was trying not to allow past knowledge of the difficulties Janet has had with her ex-husband to interfere with where she was at in the session. This required conscious thought throughout. Earlier in the session I employed non-verbal cues such as “mm mmm” and “uh huh” to let Janet know that I was listening to her and allowing her express what she was feeling and where she was at. I from there I was able to ask such questions as, “How do think it might be affecting them?” and “What changed?” This allowed Janet to open up further and explore the situation. Such as her personal growth since her ex-husband left her with three children under the age of seven, and the way in which she analyses everything. This became evident to me after the session when reviewing the session with Janet. As I alluded to earlier I was aware leading into the session of some of the issues she discussed but not all. Janet commented to me afterward that some of my questions had caused her to think about things in different ways. I will explore later in this reflection where I didn’t listen as actively and consequently interrupted Janet, but asking questions of her. This and offering a solution to Janet put a hitch in our rapport, which was otherwise maintained throughout. Rapport is something that I believe I build reasonably well with people, and more often than not can where problems arise in building rapport. What is...
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