Counsellors do not offer advice as such but instead give an insight into a client’s feelings and behaviour and they help the client to change their behaviour accordingly. They do this by actively listening to what the client has to say and comment from a professional perspective. Counsellors are trained to be effective helpers, especially in sensitive and difficult situations. They have to be independent, very neutral and professional as well as respecting the privacy and confidentiality of a client. Counselling can help clients to clarify their problems, identify the changes they wish to make and give them a fresh perspective. Counsellors should help them to seek other options and look at the impact that life events have made on the client’s emotional wellbeing. They also help clients to come to terms with difficult issues and it works best if the client comes to counselling from their own free will.
The most popular humanistic therapy is the work of Carl Rogers and his client centred approach. He suggests that basic assumptions of client centred therapy are that the client is the best equipped person for understand their problems and solving them and that psychological conflicts are a result of a conflict between the individuals self-concept and actual experiences. The aim of this therapy is to provide the client with a relationship and provide them a therapeutic atmosphere. This then facilitates growth, understanding and self-acceptance. This helps clients to overcome the gap between their self-concept and actual experience. An individual’s self-concept is usually based on their own personal values. If the individual faces an experiences that contradicts their values, stress and anxiety can occur. Therapists that follow the client cantered approach do not aim to modify the client’s behaviour but instead they play the role of ‘facilitator.’ They then provide the client with warmth, empathy, genuineness and unconditional positive regard.
The best way is to ask open ended questions and be prepared to have a silence while you wait for the client’s answers – not you rushing in to reply and fill the gap. This pushes responsibility back on the other person and increases commitment to the solution. Decision making techniques can provide invaluable help to someone that is confused by helping them to paint their scenario options and then looking into the future and imagining them playing out.
The client can then predict how their will manage this type of situation, how they would feel and how successful this option may be. The counsellor should also explain how unproductive it is to stay tortured about things and not come to a decision. Counsellors should help the client to sort through what they need to consider and make a date in order to meet a certain and effective decision. Counsellors should also analyse decisions and make sure the client has the necessary commitment to carry them out. Counsellors should make client’s realise that not all decisions will feel great, sometimes they are the best of two painful outcomes and may involve a loss. If a decision is delayed or must be delayed for any reason, a new date must be made for finalising it.
Force field analysis is a very useful decision making technique. It helps individuals to make decisions by analysing the forces for and against a change and it helps them to communicate with the reasoning behind the decision. It can be used for two purposes: to decide whether to go ahead with a change and to increase your chances of success by strengthening the forces supporting the change and weakening those that go against it. You can use this tool to list all of the forces for and against a decision to change. You then score each factor based on its influence and add up the scores for and against the change to find out which one wins. You then look at strengthening forces that support the change and managing those that go against, which makes the process more successful. Then you can describe the plan or proposal for a change in a box in the middle of the paper, you list the forces for change in a column in the left hand side and the forces against it on the right.
Next, assign a score to each force, from, say, 1 (weak) to 5 (strong), and then add up the scores for each column (for and against). One this analysis process is done it can be used to decide whether or not to move forward with the change or to think about how to strengthen the forces that support change and weaken forces opposing it. SWOT analysis is also a useful technique for understanding strength and weaknesses and for identifying both the opportunities open to the client and the threats that they may face. This analyses was created by Albert S Humphrey and it is used as a serious decision making tool. It helps clients to focus on choices that maximise their strengths and minimise their threats and take the greatest opportunity of opportunities available. When carrying out a SWOT analysis it is important to be realistic. For decisions to be effective they must ultimately be made by the client. Tools are only effective to help them make decisions if they are owned by the client who can then feel in control of the whole process. Drawbacks to these approaches:
Clients may go to counselling expecting that the counsellor will provide answers for their problems but this is not the case. They may become frustrated once they realise that the counsellor cannot simply provide answers for them and if it was that easy the client would have solved these problems long before. Building a successful counsellor relationship helps to support the client in finding their own answers to their problems and make their own choices. The techniques above will help the client to make decisions for themselves, however the choices made must be the client’s only and not under anyone else’s influence. Counsellors may feel that that are demonstrating person centred skills to support a client’s own decision making but the client may feel differently.
The client may feel patronised and unsupported by this. The solution to this is that the counsellor needs to be self-reflective and acknowledge the feedback that their client gives to them and also their supervisor and make them rethink their assumptions on their own skills and knowledge. Client centred therapy and decision making techniques may work less well on people who find it difficult to talk about themselves or maybe they may have a mental illness, for example schizophrenia which can distort their perceptions of reality. Despite these criticisms however, these approaches have provided a very important framework for helping many clients deal with any difficulties in their life.