A Systematic Approach to Effective Helping

Topics: Problem solving, Problem Pages: 40 (12912 words) Published: February 3, 2013

A Systematic Approach to Effective Helping

Gerard Egan
Loyola University of Chicago

Brooks/Cole Publishing Company
Pacific Grove, California

The Skilled Helper presents a three-stage problem-management model of helping and the methods and skills helpers need to make it work. It is, therefore, a basic text for counselor and therapist training programs. While the model it describes is a "stand alone" model, its principles and methods can also be incorporated into other approaches to helping. Further, ideally the model can be used, not just by helpers, but by clients themselves. Ultimately, no matter what school or approach to helping is used, clients need to manage their own lives more effectively, The effective helper not only helps clients manage problems and develop unused resources and opportunities but also, at least indirectly, helps clients learn a process for managing their concerns better. The Skilled Helper model is just such a process.

While the 1990 edition keeps the basic model, methods, and skills intact, there have been a number of changes. For instance, Steps B and C of Stage I have been reversed. The logic here is that counselors, can help clients focus on key issues better if they first challenge the kinds of blind spots that keep clients mired down in their problems. However, as in previous editions, the emphasis continues to be on doing what a particular client's needs call for. The model provides helpers with a wide range of possible interventions. Client need determines precisely which set of interventions is actually used. This edition focuses even more strongly than its predecessors on the issue of client action. I have become more and more convinced, both as a counselor and as a consultant, that the primary problem in helping is not the lack of good problem- and opportunity-focused analysis, goal setting, and strategy formulation. The cognitive part of helping is, in the main, healthy. But too little of what is planned gets translated into problemmanaging and opportunity-developing action. Two correctives are needed. First, we need to find more effective ways of helping clients own the helping process. Second, the tempo of client action, both covert cognitive or internal action and overt action in the everyday settings of life, needs to be raised. The cognitive part of helping helps


clients make sure that their actions will have direction and be prudent. But actions cannot have direction or be prudent if they do not take place. In this edition further work has been done in the area of the values that underlie helping and the client-helper relationship. Novice counselors cannot wait for others to hand them the "correct" value list. Rather, they must actively determine the set of values that will guide them in their practice and then make sure that these are not just espoused values but values-in-use.

There are other new accents in this edition as well. Since the helping professions are in constant movement, new examples from different settings complement the old. The use of imagination in applying the helping model is stressed even more than previously because the "psychopathology of the average" (Maslow, 1968) afflicts not just individuals but also professions, including the helping professions. The social challenge of the helping professions is to get the kinds of skills discussed in these pages into the formal and informal education system of society. We still have not found effective ways of giving the best practice of psychology away (see Larson, 1984; Miller, 1969).

A new principle has emerged in these pages—or a new way of stating an old principle: The helping model, through its stages and steps, provides principles rather than formulas. These principles serve as guidelines for helper and client alike; the "right formula," that is, the most effective application of these principles, must be found in the interactions with...
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