Terminating the client-counselor relationship

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What is the best way to end the counseling relationship?  A counselor’s hope is with the client in a better place and with a higher level of awareness.  Of course we want to know that we made a difference, but that’s the tricky part of working with humans.  We are all unique and results are measured differently.  With one client a certain level of progress may not seem very significant, but with others that same type of progress may be just enough to leave a lasting effect.  No matter how significant the results, terminating the counseling relationship is just as important as beginning it.

When meeting with a client, I like to be as proactive as possible.  The more information my clients have the better, that way there are no surprises.  Counseling is a very intimate relationship.  People don’t generally put their whole selves along with their secrets on the table for all to see, so developing the counseling relationship is instrumental.  Part of gaining trust comes with informed consent, making sure they know what to expect from you, and ending treatment in a respectful way.  Carl Rogers theory, person-centered approach, is drilled into your counseling education for a reason.  The three aspects Rogers believed are critical to the counseling relationship are unconditional positive regard, empathy, and genuineness.  If your clients feel that you are present-engaged- participating- and you care, they are much more inclined to do the work.  Get them started with an understanding that there will be an end within a timeline. This gives them a metaphorical carrot to chase; an outcome to look forward to.  One caution – you can be a part of the journey without getting on the bus.  Meaning, maintain your differentiation to prevent transference and countertransference.  It takes practice, patience, and diligence to confront your own emotions after a difficult session.  Be sure to take the time to meet with a supervisor or peer to process the session, your feelings and move through it.  We must constantly take care of ourselves, spend too much time giving all you have to everyone else, and there is little left to work with.  This work helps you and ultimately makes you a better counselor.   

The interesting part of counseling is when your clients surprise you.  Sometimes we can make termination such a big deal in our heads, and admittedly feel a bit disappointed when they are not nearly as bummed as we are to end the counseling relationship.  Bottom line…Inform them, Rogers them, and give them a loose outline so they can take you on an incredible journey!

Transformation is an experience that few of us have a front row ticket to, get in that mosh pit, get engaged, and take it all in. It will change your life as well.

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Counseling Theories

What did I learned in my last Counseling class before my field experience?  I thought I knew something about Counseling Theorists, but then Dr. D had this way of showing you the theories in such a way that they really stick.

The class structure was a great format to dissect and dig into theories.  The process of presentation followed by professor overview, then movement into a live role play, and finally into an activity created an environment of learning that leaves room for participation, learning and feedback.  I got the most from the role plays, as these helped me see how different theories can impact individuals and problems.  These experiences have helped me choose the theories that I believe in and trust will work for my style and my view of human nature and development.  I have learned that theory is the second most important part of working with clients. Continue reading

Healing after loss

How do you console a person experiencing grief?  Whether it is a loved one, a client, or coworker, the words never seem to be full enough to say enough; and the gifts, cards and flowers seem trivial when compared to what the person is experiencing.  So, how can you help a person experiencing tragedy?  In the past few months, several people I know have experienced loss of loved ones, illness, and tragic events beyond their control. Even this week, I received the sad news that my grandmother is in the hospital, and my cousin’s young daughter is having heart trouble.  In my experience, folks have told me that the best thing to do is to just be there.  The comfort comes from knowing you care, and that if they need you, you are there. Continue reading

The essence of the therapeutic relationship: congruence, unconditional positive regard, and empathy

What are the very basics to counseling?  What helps you build rapport with your clients?According to Seligman (2010), Rogers theoretical perspective places huge significance on facilitative conditions that he believed created a positive client-clinician relationship that promotes the clients’ self-awareness and ability to direct their lives in positive ways.  Congruence, unconditional positive regard, and empathy were the most important of these conditions.  Continue reading

How Past Experiences Influence Future Choices

Past experiences play a huge role in the lives of people and the choices they make. Depending on the theoretical framework you pull from, past experiences may play a significant role in the treatment plan or may not be a focal point at all. For example, in Solution focused therapy attention is focused on what is going right, small goals, and what they can do now to change the problem they came into therapy for. Therefore, little treatment focus is placed on past experiences. Gestalt is all about “promoting awareness through experiences in the here and now…as people become more aware they reconnect with parts of themselves they may have been cut off from (Seligman 2010).” So, basically being aware of how your past has influenced your current position in life, how it has impacted your choices, and being focused on emotions, experiences and sensations to promote growth and change in your life. Existential therapy places focus on choices and finding meaning in life. The past here is used to honor the meanings you have found from life experiences. Adler, Erickson and Freud all felt that the past holds the key to understanding your conscious self. The past influences us; from the teacher who made me feel special in kindergarten to the first boy who broke my heart and especially to the family members that taught me what family and relationships look like (or sometimes shouldn’t look like), the past impacts your choices and your future. The cool part about this thing called life is that we do have a choice in our behaviors and we can work towards a life that gives us meaning and self-actualization. Continue reading

Gestalt and Adlerian theory can help us understand life.

Gestalt therapy emphasizes the significance of restoring the wholeness of a person’s disembodied parts to create integration and balance.  These “disembodied parts” are the source of a person’s difficulties in life, and bringing awareness to this imbalance supports change.  Perls is quoted by Seligman (2010) describing the human organism, “We have not a liver or heart.  We are liver and heart and brain yet, even this is wrong – we are not a summation of parts but a coordination of the whole.  We do not have a body, we are a body, we are somebody.”  In Gestalt theory and practice, the body is a huge predictor of what is happening in the here and now and how the experience in counseling may translate into their behaviors in their everyday lives.  Gestalt techniques use observable behaviors in the here and now to bring awareness to the client of their emotions and thoughts so that they can reconnect with their body.  Gestalt theorists believe that all the qualities that a client  needs to be successful are within, but they sometimes may need help.  Through awareness and reconnecting with oneself in the here and now growth can occur. Continue reading