To what extent is a counsellor more than just a good listener? In your discussion we would like you to draw on key elements that form the practise of counselling. In addition we would like you to consider your own qualities and skills and identify what you need to do to progress in the profession.
This century has seen a rise in counselling services. We have counsellors for specific diseases, addictions, depression, divorce, name the problem and we seem to have a ‘therapist’ for it. So what are counsellors? Do we need them? Is that not what friends and family are for, to listen and help us through difficult times? Is a counsellor just a ‘paid friend’? Can anyone be a counsellor? After all anyone can listen, we do it all the time. Counsellors developed from the medical profession taking over the care of the mentally vulnerable from family friends and small societies when the industrial revolution swept across the developed world and fragmented communities. Early pioneers like Freud, Watson, Jung, and Rogers drew from backgrounds in science, arts, religion and philosophy to develop Psychological Theories. In 1986 Karasu noted 400 distinct models of Counselling/Psychotherapy. From the three main approaches of Psychodynamics, Cognitive Behaviour, and Humanistic theories many branches have sprouted and, as practitioners blend ideas to develop new techniques and discard those they find ineffectual, Counselling continues to grow and develop. A benefit of a counsellor is that they are neutral. They can be objective and have no preconceived ideas about what you should say or feel thus enabling you to air thoughts that are more difficult to reveal to family or friends for fear of judgement. A counsellor will use approaches, either singularly or in combination, to focus on listening and understanding the client thus helping them make sense of their life difficulties in a safe and non judgemental environment. Unlike other professions which may include forms of counselling alongside their main job (teachers, nurses, social workers, etc), Counsellors focus on nothing else. What makes a good listener into a Counsellor? Some qualities suggested are Empathy, Sincerity, Integrity, Resilience, Respect, Humility, Competence, Wisdom and Courage. Are Counsellors born with these? Can they be taught or are the honed through training? Guggenbuhl-Craig 1971 and Rippere and Williams 1985 suggested the therapist as a ‘wounded healer’ with their Skills derived from an inner loss or pain allowing them to feel the client’s pain. Many counsellors train after an encounter with therapy and it is perhaps no coincidence that many nurses, teachers and social workers are drawn to counselling. Are empathy and good listening skills more important than training? It is undoubtedly important to listen instinctively and non-judgementally, empathising and making your client fell comfortable, encouraging them to open up; training will sharpen theses skills. Having a good knowledge base in one or even a few theoretical perspectives helps make sense of what the client sees as the problem and gives tools and techniques to help them see that perspective and change, if that’s what they want. Whatever approach is taken, Counsellor training is normally carried out within an ethical framework. The framework referred to in this work is that supplied by the BACP. No matter how good a listener you are or how empathic, it can be difficult to deal with the floods of vulnerability, damage and emotion that clients can have. The aims of counselling are that, in a non-judgemental and safe environment, clients will be supported and trusted to develop and use their own inner resources, becoming self determining and using their own internal locus of evaluation to follow a path and make their own decisions. Although counsellors tend to choose a theoretical approach which suits their view of life and each approach can have stricter or more lax views on...
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