Counselling provides the opportunity for a person to express their thoughts and feelings in an environment that is different from their daily life. There may be a need to engage in a conversation where a person can receive feedback and a different perspective on the issues that they are dealing with in a non-judgemental and safe environment, McLeod (2007). In a recent counselling session, where I was the counsellor, I was invited to share the feelings and experience of my client who had some unpleasant experiences at work and he needed to talk to someone and express his feelings. According to Egan 2010, some of the important skills of an effective counsellor are good communication, active listening, empathic responding, probing, challenging and summarising. In this essay I will endeavour to elaborate on these and other skills which I used during the session, what I did well, what I should have avoided or done differently, the lessons learnt from this experience and how I intend to conduct myself as a counsellor in the future.
My day at work had been quite challenging on the day of the appointment and I was extremely tired and unnerved. I took a few minutes before the session to sit in silence and gather my thoughts, do some deep breathing exercises, and focus on the task that I was committed to. I felt calm and rejuvenated after this exercise and went in ready to start the session. According to Wilson 1995, the path to instant calm is creating a moment of silence and allowing ourselves to be still and in that moment to experience a sense of stability and focus. Wilson 1995 has also outlined some useful breathing techniques called the ‘art of breathing’ and affirmations where one can repeat positive and uplifting words in their mind over and over again to bring immediate positive change to a stressed and tired mind and body and those were the techniques I used. Due to the way I had felt earlier I had contemplated cancelling the session but went ahead as I had committed and knew that my client was looking forward to the session. It was not responsible to let him down at the last minute. Honouring my commitment was the first step to building trust in the relationship. According to Govier 1998, the first steps to building trust in any relationship begins with the seemingly small things like keeping appointments, being on time and remembering important dates. If I did not honour my commitment the client could feel let down and possibly think that if I could not be trusted to keep an appointment how would someone trust me with their personal feelings and experiences? Building trust is also important to building and sustaining respect in a relationship. The client would lose respect and confidence in a counsellor whom they see as unreliable.
As my client arrived I greeted him and briefed him on issues of confidentiality. I explained that all discussions in the session and any notes that I may take during the session would be kept confidential. The only event in which this information would need to be accessed is if there was a danger of harm to self or others, if there was information pertaining to child abuse that needed to be reported to the appropriate authorities of if the file was subpoenaed by the court. I also explained that the clients would be informed in such a situation and his permission obtained. Even though clients may fill out and sign the confidentiality document before the start of the session, it is important to briefly recap issues of confidentiality just to ensure they have read the document, that they are clear and understand what to expect from the session, (Egan, 2008).
My client informed me that he works for a charitable organisation, providing support services to the hungry and homeless off the street. He began to speak about his experience at work where a colleague had given negative feedback about him to his manager saying...
‘This worker gave some feedback to others...
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