Today was an exciting step for me. Before we returned to our small groups we congregated together to examine the attitudes necessary in a counsellor in order to engage successfully with a client.
We began developing our counselling skills by examining the approach and processes required; it is not enough to feel compassion towards the person you are counselling. It is a carefully worked-out process, with definite steps. You have to suspend all judgement and truly accept the client’s perspective of their problem, and you have to be able to do this and reflect it in a manner that makes it very clear to them that you honestly understand what they are going through.
An unsettling, if amusing, initial experiment, in pairs, clearly demonstrated how important it is to really give the client your complete attention.
We were given clear instructions – backed up in the form of another manual – and taken through an effective physical method, comprising several aspects, of assuring a client that they have the attention of a counsellor who is truly engaging with their story.
We examined responses to the content of a client’s description of their problem as well as the emotional aspects. We explored the necessity for warmth, sincerity, empathy (not sympathy) and unconditional respect, and the ability to communicate this clearly to the person being counselled. We were also taken through examples of people engaging in counselling sessions, which we then discussed. I was glad to discover that I was able to pick up on some of the unspoken feelings during some of these demonstrations.
Then we went back into our small groups to practice and observe each other enacting as counsellors and clients. As “Homework,” we were instructed to begin engaging in telephonic counselling sessions with the other group members. We were also given assessment sheets to fill in after we have been counselled, to enable each of us to monitor our progress. Now this is becoming very real – I am able to begin to apply what I have learned and do so “safely” with someone with whom I already have an established relationship.