How Does Counselling Differ from Other Helping Skills

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Lorna Wilson


How does Counselling Differ from other Helping Skills?

In everyday life people experience difficulties and problems that they feel they are not able to deal with on their own and need help with. The help that people receive to overcome their problems can be in many different forms. People may receive help in an informal way, such as having a chat to a close friend or relative, who can offer support and advice or they may seek help in a more formal capacity from various helping professionals, such as counsellors, social workers, psychiatrists, doctors, etc. For all of these professionals it is their formal role to help people manage distressing problems of life, but the help that is given can be very different depending on the profession of the helper & their specific skills. This assignment aims to consider how counselling differs from other forms of helping.

Not every person who uses counselling skills is designated a counsellor. We can distinguish two groups of people who use counselling skills. People who are called counsellors, who engage in counselling as a distinct profession and others who use counselling skills as part of their role.

We may go to a doctor to discuss a problem we are facing and a helping relationship is formed, but what the doctor offers is not counselling. They may well use their counselling skills, by listening to the patient to gain an understanding of their distress, but they also use other skills such as giving advice and providing factual information.

The British Association of Counselling & Psychotherapy define counselling as

‘taking place when a counsellor sees a client in a private and confidential setting to explore a difficulty the client is having, distress they may be experiencing or perhaps their dissatisfaction with life, or loss of a sense of direction or purpose. It is always at the request of the client, as no-one can properly be sent for counselling’.

It is a supportive relationship that enables clients to explore, understand, come to terms with and resolve their problems.

Hough (2006) describes counselling as a relationship which is often between two people, but can sometimes be in a group setting. The counselling relationship is unique to other forms of helping for various reasons. One reason is due to the special form of communication that takes place between the client and counsellor.

A primary difference between counselling & other forms of helping is the way in which counsellor’s listen. By listening attentively and patiently the counsellor begins to perceive the difficulties from the client’s point of view and can help them to see things more clearly or from a different perspective. Active listening involves thinking behind the client’s words and about their feelings and emotions. It also involves being aware of non-verbal communication such as eye contact, facial expressions and body language. All of which can provide the counsellor with information about what the client may be experiencing.

Some helping relationships involve giving advice, which means telling people what they should do. This should not take place in counselling. The counsellor may well talk through with the client what is possible and explore different ways that problems could be resolved but it is about helping the client to take responsibility for finding a solution that feels right for them. This enables the client to take control of their own life and is based on the principle of empowerment. Freud (1920) even cautioned against giving advice. He felt that people should be helped to come to their own independent decisions without pressure.

Confidentiality is also an essential part of the agreement between counsellor and client, but it can also be important to other helping professionals in their work. During counselling, clients may reveal...
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