How Do I Make Use of Counselling Skills and Knowledge in Helping Interactions and/or in Helping Work?

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November 2010

How do I make use of counselling skills and knowledge in helping interactions and/or in helping work? In this assignment I intend to define ‘counselling skills and knowledge’ and then show how I actively employ these qualities during my everyday life. These include informal helping interactions with family and friends, in a supervisory capacity at work and during skills practice sessions as part of my counselling course. Finally I’ll analyse the effects that these helping interactions have on me personally and the various ways in which I deal with those effects.

Firstly it’s important to distinguish between using counselling skills and being a counsellor. From my own research I think the distinction revolves around the fact that a counsellor has formal qualifications and is bound by a code of ethics and professional practice – what the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) calls the ethical framework. In contrast, anyone can use counselling skills in a non-counselling situation – be that as a nurse, line manager, social worker, neighbour or friend. The BACP states that counselling skills are being used when “There is an intentional use of interpersonal skills, which reflects the values of counselling and the user’s primary role is enhanced without them taking on the role of counsellor, and the recipient perceives the user as acting within their primary professional caring role, which is not that of being a counsellor.” As a non-qualified counsellor myself I’m going to explore the ways I use counselling skills and knowledge across a number of ways during my everyday life. As Gerard Egan points out in his book The Skilled Helper (1984), in the majority of cases, helping skills, including counselling skills, are provided by people who are not counsellors.

As a trainee counsellor I can only offer limited experience and knowledge of counselling skills, what Pete Sanders (2002) refers to as ‘helping in a counselling way’ or ‘basic helping’. But what exactly are these counselling skills? Carl Rogers (1961) proposed that six conditions were necessary in a helping relationship. For the purposes of this essay I’m going to concentrate on three of them – that the helper experiences empathy through listening, that the helper is congruent or genuine and that the helper experiences unconditional positive regard.

I’m going to start with empathy. Pete Sanders describes it as “trying to see the world of another person from their point of view. It involves trying to understand their world, their meanings, their life…The emphasis is on not only understanding, but also on doing this gently and sensitively…” (First Steps In Counselling, 2002 p.68). From personal experience it seems apparent to me that you can’t have empathic understanding without listening. Almost all counselling approaches today agree that listening is the backbone of counselling therapy. “Listening is by far the most important skill in counselling.” (Hough, 2010 p.40) I am often referred to as ‘a good listener’. In the past however, I may have listened to the problems that my friends and family brought to me and I would have felt that the best way to help was to offer advice or try to come up with solutions. It is only since doing the course that I’ve come to realise the value of listening as an isolated skill. In fact the skills and experience that I’ve picked up have been incredibly useful in enhancing my qualities as a friend, neighbour and colleague. Pete Sanders says “As we work through the values, qualities and skills of good helping, you will see these build up to being a more fulfilled person and responsible citizen.” (First Steps In Counselling, 2002 p.10) Whereas before I would have tried to ’fix’ my friends and family when they came to me with their problems, I am now much more aware of sitting back and listening to their concerns. I try to listen ‘actively’ which means filtering out the normal blocks that...
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