The Personal Skills of one of our Counsellors…
My main skills which I believe are strengths in a helping relationship are in active listening including reflecting and questioning and showing empathy to the speaker through paraphrasing and supportive summarising of the situation and what they seem to feel. Having, developed these skills from my life experience and working with all different races, cultures and nationalities in a global company, I have received feedback that I have good “people” skills and I am seen to be approachable and helpful in difficult situations. I believe these skills are strengths in helping relationships because they match my motivation to help people to solve problems and issues. I have also seen in the Triad work how using and further developing these skills has a beneficial effect on the helping relationships.
A couple of my personal qualities which I feel are strengths in helping relationships come from my tendency towards TYPE B behaviours (per Friedman and Rosenman). I am usually very calm (or able to behave in a calm manner when under pressure) and I am always trying to make sense of situations and find the big picture and long-term direction for solving problems. I think this gives me a positive orientation towards helping relationships because it enables people to feel I am “with them” and able to offer them unconditional positive regard towards helping enable them to identify and address their own issues.
With regard to your skills and qualities in helping relationships, identify the areas you would like to develop and highlight in ways in which you intend to achieve this.
The main area I would like to further develop is my listening skills. While feedback shows that people feel I am very attentive towards them, sometimes I miss parts of information resulting from my own “blocks to listening”. In a previous assessment these have been identified as loss of concentration coming from i) my sense of urgency in helping to find positive outcomes or solutions to problems (e.g. trying to think ahead of, or second-guess the speaker) and ii) my inner “judge” which can make me jump to conclusions about the motivations of others without verifying this.
I believe the causes of my loss of concentration come from my workplace where there is always a sense of urgency to fix things and move on. I tend to take upon myself the responsibility to fix things for myself and others. The way for me to achieve an improvement in this area is to remind myself that, in helping relationships I am the facilitator of positive outcomes for the speaker and NOT the problem solver. In other words I need to resist owning and solving the problem. To become more practised in this it will help me if I differentiate my working relationships from other relationships with friends and family. In other words I need to become more mindful in my interactions with others and think “is this just about work or is this an opportunity to help the person at a deeper level”.
Although physical exercise is part of my routine, I will need to build in some time for relaxing and meditation in order to become more “present”. I believe this will help me a lot in reducing anxiety and improving my concentration levels.
Identify your own support needs in order to contribute to helping a relationship and describe how you can access this support.
Being quite a self-sufficient character I tend to see it as a form of weakness on my part to ask for help. I much prefer giving help to others than asking for it myself. However, I have come to realise that in some ways failing to ask for help when I really need it is actually a weakness rather than a strength. It can work against me and become quite isolating. The irony is that failing to ask for help could prevent me from meeting my true potential in helping others. I realise I need to try to shift my thinking on this.
The kind of help and support I will need from others is to have my own thoughts and beliefs be questioned or challenged by others and to seek and receive feedback on if and how I am changing or growing. My sister practices Indian Head massage and she could help me a lot with relaxation. I have a number of friends who are interested in and/or studying counselling and psychology and we have set up some regular lunch dates to discuss our shared interests and self-development with each other. These people and my fellow students could provide a powerful mutual support network where we can share experiences and give and receive feedback to meet our own development and support needs.
I am fortunate enough to have a mentor at work who can provide feedback and coaching on my own personal development and I can find support in my learning and confidence in the subject of helping relationships from further reading (magazines, library and internet sources).
Outline how personal and/or professional support can be used to highlight issues arising from the use of counselling skills practice.
I have come to realise and appreciate that personal and professional support is vitally important to the listener in helping relationships because it enables them to become more effective in the helping relationship as a result of understanding themselves and addressing their own issues.
Sometimes, issues which may be unconscious to ourselves can manifest themselves when helping others, or may inhibit our ability to offer unconditional positive regard or be able to think and act objectively. In some cases it may not be possible to overcome the issues, but at least by developing self- awareness we become more mindful about how our own situation can impact the helping relationship. (e.g. we could become “too empathic” and experience vicarious anger or try to placate and rescue others with whom we more closely identify at a deep personal level).
For counselling practitioners, professional supervision is recommended and appears to be essential as a support mechanism for those regularly engaged for significant periods of time in concentrating on helping relationships. It is as if the greater the exposure to helping scenarios is, then the greater the support needs are to underpin on-going mental health and reduce stress of the listener, as well as to enhance and maintain their effectiveness in the helping relationship.
Although I am not a devout Christian, the Christian beliefs and teachings informed much of my upbringing. Every time we discuss the importance of support in counselling skills practice it makes me recall one of Jesus Christ’s lessons from the Holy Bible, New Testament: i.e. to help “remove the spec from someone else’s eye we first need to remove the log of wood from our own eye in order to see more clearly”…..to be of useful help. Personal and professional support appears to be a key enabler of the listener to become more helpful to others, through working on their own self-awareness and issues.
Describe your own observations, thoughts, feelings and concerns when using counselling skills.
The following is a list of what has occurred to me when using counselling skills:-
- The power of silence in helping the speaker access their own deeper feelings and resources. Although it might not always feel comfortable for the speaker, it seems to work every time to open up greater understanding.
- How eye contact and open body language helps make the speaker feel more comfortable to share own concerns or perceived weaknesses.
- How remembering to use paraphrasing helps me as the listener to avoid making assumptions and pursuing unhelpful line of questioning
- Understanding how consciously using the range of counselling skills helps the speaker to achieve positive outcomes for themselves.
- The idea that the “organismic self” (from Carl Rogers’ person-centred counselling theory established in the 1940’s) is motivated to find it’s own solutions, helps me to realise the speaker’s responsibility in the helping relationship, allowing me to release my own sense of responsibility to solve their problems for them. Realising that concentrating on using the skills is often enough to enable the speaker to discover and decide how to help themselves.
- Noticing how through the Triad work, I and my fellow students have grown our confidence and experience in using the skills, through providing feedback to each other. It makes me think how important it is to seek feedback on an on-going basis in my life.
- Being inspired by fellow students, with our Tutor’s guidance, in establishing trust and the safety of sharing personal thoughts and motivations.
- The encouragement and empowerment I feel in being able to help others make a difference in their own lives, through my own use of counselling skills.
- Feeling grateful for having the opportunity to join the course, for the insights and confidence I have gained from it and for the help and support I have received from everyone involved.
- Whether I will be able, at age 50, to overcome some of my less helpful behaviour patterns which have become quite entrenched in myself (as outlined above).
- Whether I will continue to receive financial sponsorship to continue my studies in counselling and if not, how I would fund this.
- The future of counselling as a practise, given technological change and how I could contribute in the “new world” environment.
Explain the benefits of self-reflection on your own personal development and in your use of counselling skills.
From reflecting on myself, I have realised there is a limit to what I can discover on my own. I need others and need to reach out to them to receive encouragement, support and feedback to help me become more effective in helping others.
Self-reflecting on own development needs and use of the counselling skills is a key component in deciding in what direction to grow and develop. I believe life itself is a dynamic environment where there is always something to learn about ourselves, others and the process of helping relationships. Unless we make a commitment and effort to self–reflect, to attain greater self-awareness and understanding, we may limit the help we can bring to others.
Feedback from others helps me check and verify areas for improvement. In other words the feedback helps to fuel my own self-reflection to crystalise areas of development or self-change that I need to focus on. I have also found that maintaining the discipline of updating my own Personal Learning Journal has enabled a regular self-reflection of how I am developing, learning and growing.
In conclusion I feel that self-reflection is not (as many people I know may see as) a self-indulgent act. It is a key to unlock one’s own potential to become more conscious, more self-aware as a basis to grow; both for one’s own benefit and towards being better able to help others.