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What is Counselling?

Discuss about the Counselling.

While “counselling” is a loosely used term, it is usually used in a professional context. Counselling usually refers to the act of giving advices to an individual, who is finding himself in a troublesome situation, and is seeking serious advice for the same. However, in the professional and narrower context, the term ‘counselling’ is used to denote an activity where a client finding himself being beset with personal problems, contacts a professional counsellor, to provide him comprehensive solutions to a problem (Alpturer, 2016). It should be remembered here, that a counsellor is not responsible for solving the problem of an individual, and he is expected only to provide advices to the client on what steps can mitigate and prevent his problems. For example, an individual may contact a counsellor because he is suffering from Depression, after being diagnosed with Cancer. Now, the counsellor will not be able to cure him of Cancer or Depression, or any other ailment, but can offer him moral support, change his way of thinking and seeking things, and lift up his spirits. Besides, the counsellor can also prescribe him some Yoga classes that can help him gain back peace of mind (Brown, 2013).


The counsellor is responsible for restoring mental health and well-being of the clients, and will help them stay at peace with themselves. A client can also motivate the client, and teach him how to battle with the hard situations of life, but is not expected to solve the problems. For example, in the above counselling session, it is being observed that the client, Valerie is not able to muster the courage to communicate before a larger audience, so the counsellor rightly inspired her by drawing examples of eminent personalities who had similar problems in the past. This gave her the confidence to believe that her problem does have proper solutions, ad she returned with greater motivation. This is what a counsellor does he identifies and evaluates a problem, offers effective solutions, and inspire an individual win over difficult situations by overcoming inner dilemmas. A counsellor is usually expected to hold a masters or even a doctoral degree in Psychology, and he offers counselling service in a variety of areas- such as relationship, marriage, education, career advancement and others (Bond, 2015).

It is needless to state that a counsellor plays a highly important role in the life of a client, as a client approaches professional help only when he finds it extremely difficult to cope up with the problems of his life. Hence, a successful counsellor has many roles to play- he plays the role of an active listener, a persuader, a confidant, a friend and a guide. This is the reason why a counsellor should not only possess the relevant degree, but should necessarily possess the required skills, that can help him serve the clients in a better way. First of all, the counsellor should have a friendly approach towards the client, and should try t help out the client in the best possible way (McMohan, 2016). He must know how to help the client and helping does not constitute offering concrete solutions to the problems, but should also involve offering moral support and emotional backing to the client. He should not only get his problem solved, but he should also believe that he is not alone in this world. Next, it the persuasive skills of a counsellor are as important as his listening skills. It should be noted that a client will not visit a counsellor simply because he wants to hear lectures about what should have been done by him, but he will also wish to be understood in the first place. In case the counsellor is trying to simplify his task, by stating facts to the client, the client may feel all the more depressed and helpless (McLeod, 2015). It is highly important that the counsellor attends to the problems of the client, both physically and psychologically, so that the client understands that the counsellor is open for any form of assistance (Dryden & Mytton, 2016). This is the reason why counsellors are required to maintain a relaxed body position, so that the client can be comfortable in explaining his problems to him. Thirdly, active engagement in the problem of the client or effective empathy is an important skill that should be present in the counsellor. In case of over-professional counsellors, the clients fail to open up about their problems, and benefit too little from the counselling sessions (Deurzen & Adams, 2016). Although the problem of the client is apparently not the problem besetting the counsellor, he should actively engage himself in the problem of the client, use a compassionate tone and endearing words, such as “I am sorry dear”, so that he can first take his client in confidence. Unless the client has confidence in the counsellor, no amount of good advice can guide him to act in the right way, and hence to persuade the client, a counsellor must learn to look beyond his point of view and try to understand the client’s problem. The fourth important skill to be possessed by a counsellor is his questioning and summarising skills (Hough, 2014). A client often takes too much time to open up about his problem, and thus the counsellor with his effective communication skills, must keep on insisting the client to open up about what is bothering him. The client may choose to keep numb about his personal problems before a stranger and may withhold crucial facts, but it is the duty of a counsellor to keep on making inquiries unless everything about the life of the client is clear to him. The last yet not the least important skill is the challenging skill of self-disclosure. Self-disclosure refers to the act of disclosing personal information of the counsellor for creating rapport and facilitating the process of self-disclosure of the client (Coelho et al. 2016). In other words, it may happen that a shy, introvert client comes up for counselling who hesitates to reveal each single detail of his personal life, and prefers to keep numb (Tolan & Cameron, 2016). In such a situation, the self-disclosure strategy is being chosen by the counsellor shares stories or incidents of his personal life to help the client feel at ease about the persistent problems of his life.

The Role of a Counsellor


However, it is important to consider the extent to which the aforementioned skills of counselling were being followed by me in my counselling session with Valerie. I would like to state here that I have explored my basic and crucial counselling sessions. First of all, possessing effective communication skills has proved to be advantageous for me. I observed that initially Valerie was upset, and yet awkward to open up before me about her inabilities and poor communication skills. Hence, I chose to greet her, and inform her that I am always there to listen to and solve her problems carefully. This gave her slight courage to open up before me, about how uncomfortable she is in delivering public speech. As I observed that he is being pessimistic about his future career, I told her how it was okay to have slight issues that can be resolved easily. This helped me create a client-counsellor relation that was evident as Valerie more actively got involved with me in the discussion of the problem (Nelson & Jones, 2015). Next, I also have played the role of an active listener, and listened to each of Valerie’s problems with much attention and this helped Valerie as she realized that her troubles were not being unheard of. I noticed that the pitch of her voice was quite low and depressed, while her facial expression was pale, and her non-verbal cues such as agitated behaviour, and restlessness were being taken note of. I understood that the problem of Valerie, just like any other client, does not exist in her lack of communication skills but in her misconception that her inability to surmount this problem would lead to failures in her professional life. Hence, I chose to listen to her empathetically, and occasionally offer support exclaiming:” That indeed is a serious problem”. This helped me form a rapport with Valerie who gradually opened up to me about her past experiences with a greater ease (Joyce & Sills, 2014). Meanwhile, I have also explored my questioning skills, as I investigated the matter, asking her since when she had been facing these speech troubles, and collected valuable information about her traumatic childhood days when she was being laughed at for speaking inaccurate English. Asking her questions helped me explore her past incidents that had shaped how she thinks today, and that accounts for her low self-esteem. The self-disclosure strategy was not being directly chosen by me, as I did not refer to any incident of my past life, I observed that Valerie is a girl suffering from low confidence, and hence her confidence could best be boosted by telling her inspirational tales of eminent celebrities, like Nicole Kidman, and hence I chose to motivate her by telling their stories. This did give her a lot of confidence, changing her unrealistic thinking that poor communication skills can impede the professional success of any individual. I purposively chose to omit the last skill in my counselling session, because I understood that it would not be apt to serve the current situation. Since the girl was required to feel motivated, it was important to refer to people who would inspire her in an effective way.

Skills Required by a Counsellor


I would like to mention here that through the counselling session I had tried to help out Valerie in the best possible way. I motivated her, inspired her to believe in herself and instilled a strong sense of confidene in her. From being a girl speaking in a slow despondent voice, Valerie changed within the session to be a girl with better understanding of her goals. I not only helped her feel motivated, but also offered her real solutions to her problems. For example, I recommended her to enhance her communication and soft skills by enrolling herself in a training session, and also advised her to practice before mirror or her close relatives, and develop the habit of speaking without any problem. Further, I boosted her confidence by generalizing her issue, and this did help in changing her perspective about the problem. While she considered this issue to be an insurmountable problem that would lead her to failure, I helped her understand that this was only a trivial challenge that she needed to overcome. I was able to persuade her about my perspective and her self-esteem did improve after the session got over.

However, while counselling Valerie I encountered a few limitations that hindered and challenged my ability to explore my existent counselling skills to its fullest. First of all, I got merely 15 minutes for completing the session, out of which around 5 minutes were gone in helping Valerie speak up about my problem. It was difficult to assess her problem, convince her and change her perception within a short frame of time (Hough, 2014). Time constraint was an important limitation. Besides, Valerie took a little time in opening up about her whole problem to me, and thus I had to make much effort to feel comfortable to open up before me. Besides, the third limitation is that Valerie was a little shy and introvert, and thus it was difficult for me to understand if she was agreeing with my perspective, or merely nodding her head to please me. Again, Valerie was a little depressed when she came for the session to me, and thus she appeared to be a little unapproachable and unconvinced initially. This made the job of reading her mind, complexities of her problems, and persuading her a little difficult for me.


However, I would like to conclude here that this counselling session has helped me to figure out the important skills I possess as a counsellor. Besides, it has helped me to mould my existent knowledge to serve my client for serving my client better. For example, I chose not to apply the self-disclosure strategy for Valerie, and decided to refer to eminent personalities whose stories might interest her more. Thus, this counselling session with Valerie had helped me tow work more independently. Although a series of key limitations were being encountered in the process, that did discourage me for a few moments, ultimately I utilized my counselling skills to overcome the same. It had been an enlightening experience to help a girl open out about her problem, share her childhood experiences and motivate her that would hopefully help her to stay motivated in future. 

References

Alpturer, M. I. (2016). Environmental Inference in Psychological Counselling Rooms: Effects of Room Settings on the Judgements of Counsellor Qualities. International Journal of Psychology, 51, 562.

Bond, T. (2015). Standards and ethics for counselling in action. Sage.

Brown, S. (2013). Is counselling necessary? Making the decision to have an abortion. A qualitative interview study. The European Journal of Contraception & Reproductive Health Care, 18(1), 44-48.

Dryden, W., & Mytton, J. (2016). Four approaches to counselling and psychotherapy. Routledge.

Hough, M. (2014). Counselling Skills and Theory 4th Edition. Hodder Education.

Joyce, P., & Sills, C. (2014). Skills in Gestalt counselling & psychotherapy. Sage.

McLeod, J. (2014). Doing research in counselling and psychotherapy. Sage.

McMahon, M. (Ed.). (2016). Career counselling: Constructivist approaches. Routledge.

Nelson-Jones, R. (2015). Basic counselling skills: a helper's manual. Sage.

Pinto-Coelho, K. G., Hill, C. E., & Kivlighan Jr, D. M. (2016). Therapist self-disclosure in psychodynamic psychotherapy: A mixed methods investigation. Counselling Psychology Quarterly, 29(1), 29-52.

Tolan, J., & Cameron, R. (2016). Skills in Person-centred counselling & psychotherapy. Sage.

Van Deurzen, E., & Adams, M. (2016). Skills in existential counselling & psychotherapy. Sage.

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