A metaphor for the counsellor to imagine that the client is walking along a path, the client may wander away from the path into the woods and valleys, climb over rocks, fall, and even cross streams. As counsellors we neither follow nor lead but try and walk alongside the client to go where they choose to go, exploring, developing a good rapport with them on this journey, being right beside them by being sensitive and providing a safe space.
What is counselling?
Counselling is the ability to listen and respond to help others solve difficulties affecting various stages of their lifespan. It is the art of helping others arrive at the right answers by analysis of the situation skillfully without any influence.
As we know people who come for counselling see it as their last resort for help and expect to be able to talk to someone with the hope of feeling better. Effective counselling is a two-way street and takes a cooperative effort by both client and counsellor; A counsellor’s personality is crucial in determining the effectiveness and a commitment to make some difficult transitions in behaviour is required from the client. 75% of the clients improve within the initial.6 months, first 8-10 sessions.
I am deeply interested in this topic as though my experience with multiple therapy courses and internships I have gained theoretical and practical knowledge. But feel it is essential for one entering into the field to develop the interpersonal skills required on a personal level to cater to the clients’ needs effectively.
A meta-analysis has shown that the presence of identifiable components in quality relationships is statistically correlated with successful counselling outcomes. (Gerard Egan, 1994)
This paper will provide an overview of some of the findings and critical components counsellors should imbibe and cultivate into being effective in their respective practice.
ELIZA – The Computerized Counselor and Conversations
Review of Literature
Carl Rogers has highlighted various elements of effective counselling. The term skills refer to the interpersonal tools that are needed to be in possession to be effective. Below are some positive characteristics that effective counsellors develop or have and those factors that should be avoided. (Wampold, 2000)
Factors such as readiness for change, psychological resources, and social supports may affect how well a client does in counselling. Although these are only partial as, on the other hand, the counsellor’s ability to work with the clients is equally critical. (Gladding, 2015)
Effective therapy can disrupt or remove symptoms, increasing tolerance for emotional experience and create an installation of hope and positive reinforcement to awaken faith in the client towards one’s self and the attainable goal. An accredited course of study and training needs to be pursued, the more experienced one is the more one learns to immerse oneself to deeper integrated levels. Counsellor skills include theoretical knowledge of human functioning without which the techniques become robotic and can diminish a client’s experience of counselling. As we can see the example of ELIZA the Computerized Counselor.
Being nonjudgmental is a fundamental quality which helps clients build the strength to change, acceptance is directed to the needs of the client encouraging. Counsellors empower clients to make their own decisions and contracting makes the process transparent. It may include agreements related to confidentiality, goals, counselling methods. (Hough, 2005)
Nonverbal behaviour such as facial expressions, body language portrays obvious cues about our level of interest in the client. We want to try to avoid giving the wrong impression of having a judgmental face towards the client. Eye contact is important to convey subtle messages and creates a sense of trust between the client and the counsellor. Listening is an important skill through minimal responses and is a good way to let the client know they have your attention further encouraging them to speak eg. Responses like ‘i understand, really, yes, sure ‘It is important to use our voice mindfully and be aware of the volume, clarity, speed of speaking. One should be aware not to be too rough or such that it creates fear.
It is important to attend to the content we speak very meticulously and monitor it closely. Being intrusive, interrogating the client, and creating unnecessary discomfort is not needed.
Paraphrasing is another effective way wherein the counsellor reflects the clients’ content in a clear, brief way capturing the essential components of what the client has said. It requires a skilful person who can accurately reflect content however one should be aware and not engage in Parroting which is repeating part or all of what the client says. (Mozdzierz, 2009)
Feedback is important so that the therapist can make specific changes and determine if the outcomes are resulting in satisfactory progress or not. Self-disclosure is appropriate when counsellors have resolved certain issues in their own lives with a positive attitude. (Hough, 2005)
Feelings of incompetency and inadequacy were a central feature affecting their developmental experience due to lack of experience and exposure. The counsellor needs to give the client their complete space allowing them to express their emotions without interruption even in session or they may withdraw from experiencing their emotional release. One must allow clients to go where their energy takes them and once they are comfortable they will gradually feel safe to venture towards the source of their issues. Counsellors take risks daily and face rejection by their clients but this should not result in them being discriminative and egoistic for self-glorification. Advice means telling someone what to do and what not to do. This conflicts with the true meaning of counselling and should not be undertaken. (Sriram, 1990)
Supervisors help counsellors deal with several issues that arise in the workplace. The supervisor is seen as someone who has had experience in the same profession. However, the lack of a supervisor can leave a novice with ‘orphan distress’ resulting in dissatisfaction and disinterest. (Skovholt and Rønnestad 2003) The presence of peers is important, interaction and healthy influences make a difference to the counsellor as sharing experiences, seeking suggestions and guidance can not only normalize and make it easier to function but also provides a sense of validation. Personal therapy improves skills and addresses issues that might be triggered as a consequence of counselling. (Capuzzi, 2017)
Bannerjee and Basu, 2012
In the Indian setting counselling is a fighting profession wherein it is a practice that is never taken seriously and is always termed as advice-giving, this at times created doubts about their roles and the importance in the organization. However, counsellors are struggling to make a place for themselves in the professional sphere. It acts as a hindrance to the effectiveness of preventing any positive (Bannerjee and Basu, 2012)
Participants: 3 counsellors differing in various factors contributed to as the sample for this research.
SS: Educational specialization– MBA Finance, Post Graduate Diploma In Counseling Psychology, Emory University (Atlanta ), Heart to Heart Counseling Institute (Mumbai), Diploma Courses In Special Education, Remedial Teaching
Age: 46 years Sex: Female Work Experience: 13 years
Current Workplace: Unlimited Potentialities, Marine Lines, Parel, Borivali
AS: Educational specialization– Masters ( MA ) and Post Graduate Diploma in Counseling and Psychotherapy
Age: 27 years Sex: Female Work Experience: 4 years
Current Workplace: Karma Centre for Counseling and Wellbeing (New Delhi), Psychology Ward in St.Thomas’ Hospital (London, United Kingdom)
RA: Educational specialization- Masters (MSc) in Clinical and Counseling Psychology, Post Graduate Diplomas in Multiple Therapies
Age: 30 years Sex: Female Work Experience: 7 years
Current Workplace: Karma Centre for Counseling and Wellbeing (New Delhi), Mother and Baby Unit in Royal Brompton (London, United Kingdom)
Materials: An open-ended, self-prepared Questionnaire consisting of 10 questions examining the phenomenon and aspects of an Effective Counselor in the form of an Interview Method was used to collect data. Refer to the Appendix for the same.
Design: Since the study was qualitative and dealt with a limited group consisting of 3 counsellors, an Interview Method Design was used.
Procedure: Psychological experts from the field were interviewed individually using the self-prepared questionnaire (Present in the appendix) who shared their insights of each question respectively. The counsellors consented to the interviews being recorded and key aspects of their responses were also noted down in writing simultaneously. One of them was interviewed over a video call. These were further analyzed into logical themes.
Results and Discussions
Important qualities of an effective counsellor
SS believes that active, interesting listening and patience are key qualities. She also believes that one should refrain from giving advice and conflicting ones own opinions, judgments with those of the client. AS believes empathy and resilience are important. RA says the primary quality would be to empathize and the ability to accept especially clients who do come from different backgrounds, set of values giving them a non-judgmental space to explore.
Role of knowledge, mastering various therapies, pursuing higher education through workshops, seminars, etc in counselling
For SS her involvement in various therapies made a difference in the way she facilitated therapy as she gained more information from the client and thought it was an effective start for children and resistant clients. She suggests that one can be more in tune with the field and learn a new set of skills.AS believes that having the right knowledge and implementing it effectively is key. RA says it is very important to stay in touch with the daily updating research and identify what would for a client. RA says counselling is a profession where learning never stops so it is really important to interact with other counsellors and explore their school of thought.
Developing empathy and gaining self-awareness in his/her practices
SS observed how we all face some of the other difficulties in how we manage our emotions, in a similar way the client is going through them and is unable to figure a way out. Also, it is crucial to detach from the clients and differentiate between one’s own experiences. It is important to maintain ethics and to Switch Off and deal with one’s issues on the personal front leaving work in the professional settings. AS states that empathy is a way of being with a person, its not something you achieve but something you work on constantly. RA suggests there is no one way of developing empathy and it begins in our regular daily lives when we see someone holistically. It is a conscious decision that is not very hard to cultivate says self-awareness is important to keep you up with your practice
Various challenges faced in remaining effective as counsellor overtime And how they can be managed. Eg.burnout
SS takes a short holiday, practices meditation to keep oneself integrated. She states dealing with parents who have high expectations, lives in denial, and do not have a room for acceptance are extremely challenging. AS says burnout is natural however it is important to be self-aware and recognize when it happens to take some time off and seek personal therapy for yourself and to serve your clients better, drawing personal and professional boundaries with clients who want to know about your personal life or dealing with risk- suicidal clients.
It is important to not maintain conversation outside of the session. As it can blur lines for the client eg.phone number, seeing them in public. RA says burnout is a massive concern for every counsellor and it is important to know your capacity If you feel there is a certain number of clients you can see in a day and remain effective you should keep it to that instead of pushing yourself overboard.
Therapy? Beneficial or not and the importance of finding meaning in life?
SS states that if there is no meaning in life, no vision which results in no direction resulting in an imbalance in emotional and physiological levels and seeks personal therapy. AS states that this is relative and differs for each individual as per their priorities and the stage of life you are in. RA takes personal therapy and finds it useful for self-awareness, clients perspective, and expectations from the counsellor imbibing it in your practice
The Interview method used here has certain limitations as it fails to cover empirical and experimental evidence completely, the literature is not recently updated and therefore the research is subjective.
The focus of the researcher on certain aspects and skills in collating the data might have influenced certain areas. Considering the limited sample size,self-prepared questionnaire the interviewer may not have stressed all the characteristics. The interviewer-interviewee relationship can potentially limit the responses along with the external environment where the interview is being held. The interviewee could have failed to understand the depth of the Questions and there may have been certain subjectivity in responses.
Apart from these limitations returned visits to gather more data finely could get a more holistic response. Scoring and test devices can be used and the interviewer can be more observant in picking up nonverbal cues which would be of great value. These interviews can be recorded and be used several times in case anything has been missed while noting. A follow-up study and reviewing the literature can create a strong basis for comparison with the collected data.
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