Intermediate counselling skills in practice

In this part of the essay I'm going to critically analyse my counselling skills tape, of which I did with a person out of the counselling group due to difficulties with recording a tape with a class member because of availability issues, so I was the only one of the two who is undertaking the module. The tape lasted 21 minutes and 33 seconds in total, and the section I have chose to discuss starts at 2 minutes 36 seconds and ends at 7 minutes 47 seconds making it 5 minutes and 11 seconds in total. The general topic that appears in the tape is of the ending of a long term relationship which has left her perplexed and lost as she found her self guided and told what to do by that person and now that he is out of the equation she is finding it hard to know what to do and more importantly who she really is. This tape is our first session together, and I started by welcoming her to the session by stating that everything we discussed would remain in the room and between us (confidentiality) and that we had 20 minutes in which to explore any concerns she may have.

"Confidentiality is important as being able to have such a free, open and safe environment in which to explore anything you wish is often seen as the main benefit of counselling. It gives a security that many seeking counselling have never had from anyone else in their whole life and this can seem both exciting, safe and very unsettling all at the same time" (, 30-11-2009)

During the session I helped the speaker explore some concerns in regards to a long term relationship that came to an end, and how this has impacted on her sense of direction in life and feels that she doesn't know who she is, whilst trying to go down a path of self discovery. I feel that I helped the speaker, through my interventions, explore a number of perplexities that were burdening her existence at that moment in time, she seemed very confused about what to do and what to recognise in her self, although she realised that certain regrets committed by her, were something she had to do, in order to discover her self and know who she is, and what she likes doing. She also prioritised and said that university work is important to her at the moment as it's her final year, but she still doesn't know where to go after her degree.

At listener one, I felt I was being empathic towards the speaker, in the understanding of what she had said to me. Empathic understanding is described as "being able to stand back far enough to remain objective, rather than standing too close and risk becoming enmeshed in the client's world" (Sutton and Stewart, 2008, pg 35) I saw my self as being empathic through trying to see what the listener had said to me through her frame of reference and not mine. The speaker made a statement (speaker one) about not being an 'alcoholic' in describing to me a certain episode, and I felt I didn't judge the client or tag her as being an 'alcoholic' once she stated that this wasn't the case. In remaining non judgemental I touched upon another of Rogers' therapeutic conditions, which was Unconditional positive regard which is an essential attitude a person centred counsellor must have towards their client. " The counsellor who holds this attitude deeply values the humanity of her client and is not deflected in that valuing by any particular client behaviours. The attitude manifests itself in the counsellor's consistent acceptance of an enduring warmth towards their client" (Mearns and Thorne, 2008, pg 95)

At speaker one she ended by saying: "because you realise you can't just run away from things" and I feel although I expressed empathy and Unconditional positive regard towards her in my response, I feel that I wish I would have picked up on what she said there and asked her to clarify what she meant by that statement, especially now since looking back at the tape, and noticed that issue creeping back again. At speaker six she says "I feel... like.. I'm. rejecting. all my responsibilities" and I feel that I should/could have linked the two statements together by saying, that she previously stated that 'you can't run away from things' yet on the other hand she said later on in the tape that she is 'rejecting' all of her responsibilities, so in a way it feels like she maybe running away from 'things' and this was possibly lack of congruence from my part as I believe in hindsight that I should have brought this to the speakers attention. Congruence (the third of Rogers' therapeutic conditions) is "the state of being of the counsellor when her outward responses to her client consistently match her inner experiencing of her client". (Mearns and Thorne, 2008, pg 121)

Most of my interventions were reflecting content back to her or paraphrasing, just to help her explore what she said to me and establish a mutual understanding of what was being said. Paraphrasing is: " reflecting back the client's communication in your own words, bringing clarification" ( Sutton and Stewart, 2008, pg 95) I thought I was restricted in my capabilities as a provider of counselling skills, as I felt out of depth, there was a lot of content there to be explored but my capabilities only stretched so far, and although I believe counselling skills are beneficial; Counselling per se is far more beneficial in that context. Counselling skills are: " used by a range of professionals and volunteer helpers, examples of counselling skills in practice include the doctor who listens attentively to his patient before prescribing" (Sutton and Stewart, 2008, pg 5) I used this example to illustrate the point of attentive listening, I feel I was being as attentive a listener as I could have been, within my capabilities, although as I said above there were a couple of incidents where I missed out on reflecting back to the speaker what I had heard and I put this down as possible lack of congruence at that time. Although in hindsight I also felt that the speaker also spoke a lot and I felt that it was a little too much for me to digest all at once, I found it hard to follow everything she said, and to know exactly what were the more appropriate points to reflect back to her. Counselling in difference to counselling skills is described as: "a distinct occupation which requires extensive training, supervised practice to reflect on one's own performance and maintain high standards of professionalism." (Sutton and Stewart, 2008, pg 5 (2) )

The basic outline of the Johari's window is broke up into four sections of the self: the public self-(The Public Self is the part of ourselves that we are happy to share with others and discuss openly), the hidden self- (There are often parts of our selves that are too private to share with others. We hide these away and refuse to discuss them with other people or even expose them in any way.), the blind self- (We often assume that the public and private selves are all that we are. However, the views that others have of us may be different from those we have of ourselves. For example a person who considers them self as intelligent may be viewed as an arrogant and socially ignorant by others.) and the undiscovered self- (Finally, the fourth self is one which neither us or nor other people see. This undiscovered self may include both good and bad things that may remain forever undiscovered or may one day be discovered, entering the private, blind or maybe even public selves.) (, 01-12-2009)

In relation to the Johari window, If I were to start off at the public self, I realise I can at times display more confidence than I actually have, and I think that this is all dependant on the people around us, who bring out certain traits of personality from us, I feel that in the context of this tape I am not fully comfortable, and my body language expresses this, I seem nervous and too aware of my surroundings and to a certain extent the 'artificiality' of the situation, but I gave it importance at the same time because what we were discussing was real. In regards to the hidden self I do feel I have insecurities that I try not to display too much and disguise it with as much bravado as possible at times, but then again if I showed nervousness and expressed through body language how the situation made me feel a little uncomfortable then my hidden self through leakage became my public self to the speaker, who made a comment at the end of the tape (at camera off) about how I maybe could be more confident in that role, but then again I display my self differently to certain people to a certain extent and this may be a possible flaw in the counselling context and this may be seen as the blind self, and how people would see me within that context and whether that would be an issue that future clients may identify within me.

I feel that before I started the course, I felt that I was a fairly open person, and to a certain extent I think I am, although I have discovered that in order for me to progress I should try to explore my feelings more, rather than holding back at times, as this can cause problems or restrictions in regards to my skills work. This was highlighted by the way I felt in the tape, and I think this limits my congruence towards the situation and the speaker, which may prevent crucial points being explored. As far as the other two core conditions go: empathy and U.P.R, I feel that I express them as far as my capabilities as a provider of counselling skills goes, although I do see my self relying on reflection and paraphrasing a lot but I still feel that my reflective responses carry within them levels of U.P.R and empathy. I feel that I can achieve the absences in my skills work through greater openness and to use my personal learning journal more effectively.

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