This paper reflects questions that have arisen for me during and after reading of the pointed materials in the field of practical skills needed for the therapist and the specific features that are inherent to this profession. I have pointed new aspects of the practical application of the most needed counselor skills, the main and the most acute issues in the helping profession. Also, I expressed my point of view to some issues described and articulated situations where this reading could be useful for my professional and personal life.
First of all, I should underline that at the beginning of this reading I was mostly interested in the learning of the new aspects of the counselors practical skills application. Therefore, in this reading journal I pointed the main aspects described by Nelson-Jones (2012) in the chapters of his practical guide for the counselors-beginners and put the emphasis on the most interesting topics for me such as uncomfortable topics that are rarely discussed during the therapy graduate courses, the corner stones of therapist profession.
Active listening skills are the skills that require the biggest practical experience. It is important to notice that some trainees during the therapeutic sessions felt that they were not listened to attentively and that the therapist was not concentrated. As it is stated in the study by Nelson-Jones (2012), active listening skills are skills that even the most experienced counselors have to train.
It is noteworthy that listening is much broader notion comparing to the hearing whereas it includes hearing as well as memorizing skills, vocal cues sensitivity, observing and interpreting body signals sent by the trainees, and understanding the received message taking into account possible social and personal backgrounds.
However, for the best professional in the counseling realm it is not only needed to listen to the trainees accurately but to be a reward listener. It means that active listening implies not only understanding the message from the trainees but demonstrating the level of understanding by the counselor to them. Therefore, it is necessary to train both the skills to receive and ability to send communications. Therefore, it is essential that the ability to use active listening depending on the particular situation is related to other counseling skills such as professionalism in asking accurate and relevant questions.
It should be emphasized that each helping conversation requires four listening skills inner listening of each party and outer face-to-face listening between helper and the client. Nelson-Jones (2012) highlights that the quality of inner listening, as improved sensibility to ones own feelings and thoughts, is vital to the outer listening quality.
The same is true of an accepting attitude. The better this attitude is demonstrated by the counselor, the better results will be obtained at the end of the training sessions. Nelson-Jones (2012) argues an accepting attitude involves respecting clients as separate human beings with rights to their own thoughts and feelings.
It was rather interesting to get to know how body language as one of five ways of sending communications implying namely, vocal, body, verbal, taking action message and touch could be used at practice. Nelson-Jones (2012) gives recommendations how to create an atmosphere during the trainings where the trainees could express all their fears, thoughts and articulate their problems. It is important to recognize that body messages are perceived by the clients as the main category of attending behavior including interest and emotional availability.
It is essential that counselors clients come to an office with their different personal problems with initial conflict or fear to speak. Appropriate body messages could be those factors that provide non-verbal rewards to the clients to express their concerns being assured that there is no distance between counselor and the client.
It was informative for me and highly applicable for my personal life and future success in the professional area to read about practical usage of body language. Professional helper or therapist with the aim to create an atmosphere facilitating to training and demonstrate his/her receptiveness should avoid any slouching although take relaxed body posture.
In addition I was slightly surprised to read that it is justified to lean slightly forward to the client to facilitate the intimate disclosure. I thought that it was required to keep a strict distance between the counselors and the clients personal space. Eye and gaze contacts are also crucial in the correct interpreting facial messages. However, staring can threaten the client, while too little eye contact may create distance between the therapist and the client.
Furthermore, it is essential for the therapist to convey such a facial expression that will send appropriate body messages revealing various feelings. For instance, when the client enters the office it is crucial to show interest by smiling. However, such feelings as interest, happiness, surprise, anger, disgust, contempt, and fear should be adjusted according to the emotions demonstrated by the client during the conversation with the therapist.
In addition, it could be argued that good gestures motivating the client to talk by demonstrating attentive listening and agreement and relevant to the situation touching that may be useful in a helping profession. Also, it should be pointed out that the therapists appearance in particular his/her dressing and grooming influence the first perception and attitude of the client. It is necessary to point that any body language tool should be used carefully and respect personal space as the most important value that influence openness and trust in the therapist-client relationships.
Helping sessions are perceived by the clients as something new and unknown. It is one of the most important reasons why the therapist should structure helping session in such an order that the client is able to follow logical way of training. Explaining time boundaries for the client, facilitating the client to speak about his/her problem, asking open-ended questions, applying effective active listening skills, and summarizing the main points expressed by the client accurately will improve the further dealing with the identified problem or multiple problem areas.
It is worth noting structuring can strengthen collaborative working relationships by establishing agendas or goals for the helping process as well as obtaining agreement on how to proceed. Moreover, such essential skills as wise paraphrasing and reflective feelings provide rewards for the client to continue his/her story. After the verbalization of the messages, which the client has tried to convey to the counselor, it is easier to set clear directions for further actions.
The issue of counselors professional skills to ask the right questions interested me the most. It is easily explained by the fact that appropriate questions can assist the clients in clarifying the reasons for their concerns and expanding their understanding of the problem areas. It can be argued that how you question is very important in addition to what you say. I look twice at the practical questions that the author gave as the examples. This interest was caused by my desire to learn how specific questions can clarify exact feelings and state of the physical reactions that the client may not fully understand.
It should be highlighted that think aloud approach as the part of questions of thinking assists in revealing the clients thoughts path. Saying a particular problem aloud, specifying details of particular concern either alone or with a therapists help, the clients define for themselves the most important aspects.
Another interesting approach that I have not heard before relates to the dividing feelings in three categories according to their strengths: hot, warm and cool. Such a tool of focusing on the clients thinking and their oral visualization helps the therapist to identify the problem and advise the client qualitatively. The therapist assists the clients not to panic and understand deeply his/her fears and concerns applying the practice of going beyond the evidence.
It is crucial to search for nonstandard perceptions and definite interpretations of inner feelings. The counselor should also ask such questions that will clarify the personal meaning of the events described by the client. It is essential because for each person the same event or phase can have different senses.
Developing the detailed description of the counselors questioning skills, Nelson-Jones (2012) recommends the therapist to pay attention to actions and communications clarification. The main task for the highly professional therapist is to reduce the vagueness of the client because the client cannot be specific and require professional assistance. The practical examples of the possible set of questions were very useful for me and I trained to use them assuming various practical situations at home and in my future profession.
Mention should also be made of the practical method called show me. Such professional tool assists in a clear understanding what the client means under particular explanation of his/her actions. It is needed to invite the client to show how he/she behaved in a particular situation. The author gave a good example of the teacher who was not able to discipline her/his students and ask for professional consultation.
The key point to note is that it is informative and useful to use in such a situation role-play scenario with this role-play recording. After the first session, the therapist indicates the client his/her errors in behavior and illustrates this on the practical example.
At the same time, the client may feel interrogated in case the counselor asks too many questions. With the aim to balance the desire of the client to respond to the questions fully and need of the therapist to clarify the most crucial issues, interspersing questions with active listening is required. The biggest advantage of active listening is the ability of the therapist to ensure the accuracy of the clients messages understanding.
The important point to note is that monitoring is also important part of the integral approach to the process of helping along the active listening and questioning skills. This point should be explained to the client with the emphasis that the systematic monitoring improves clients awareness. After the helping sessions, monitoring motivate to maintain the gains obtained during helping.
It was useful for me to see the practical example of rating scale application of feelings monitoring where the client should rate themselves on their feelings from no anxiety point to extremely anxious. Moreover, it is useful for the client to use worksheets for specific situations that caused the clients biggest stress. Naturally, the therapist has to train the client on the algorithm of rating scale and worksheet filing.
Perceptions, images and thoughts of the client can also be monitored. It was highly informative for me to read about STC framework (S situation, T- thoughts, C consequences). This framework indicates how thoughts mediate the reaction of the client including his/her feelings, communications, and physical reactions and to the particular situations. I should highlight that I begin to use this framework in my daily life for the most extreme or unusual situations that I experienced. I should underline that my actions in the most stressful situations became more thoughtful and balanced.
I slightly disagree with the author concerning the necessity of use of diaries or journals for the practical experience recording. I think that such methods lost their actuality in the modern time, when there is so little time for the family and relaxing, and when the career building and the overall speed of life is so rushed.
Usage of frequency charts in the clients actions monitoring was interesting and new for me. Practical example of viewing the number of cigarettes in the graphical mode was very useful for the person who desired to quit smoking. Also, it is worth noting that clients are not naturally accurate self-observers. Therefore, the therapist has to make the process of monitoring as clear as possible by training the clients not only what to record but also explaining the technical side of this process.
It should be pointed that I have improved the understanding in the field of external frame of reference given by the therapist substantially. Offering challenge and providing feedback are skills that assist the counselor in expanding the perception how the client view the problems and view themselves. It is important to recognize that skilled challenges invite clients to examine discrepancies in their feelings, thoughts and communications about which, for various reasons, they remain insufficiently aware.
It was useful to learn main inconsistencies between clients vocal, verbal and body messages on the practical examples in particular inconsistencies between actions and words, between values and actions, between giving and keeping the promise. The most curious was to recognize that by pointing such inconsistencies to the clients will facilitate their understanding of themselves, the correspondence of their words and actions.
Regarding the providing feedback to the client, it is worth noting that helpers as observers of clients’ communication may see it differently and possibly more accurately than clients perceive it themselves.
All of the above describe practical skills will assist the counselor to advise the client the possible ways of problem solving by clarifying the main goals that the client sets for himself currently, proposing different options, planning change activities.
Turning to other reading material, it should be underlined that I was puzzled with one of uncomfortable topics in particular the issues of sexual context that the therapist faced during his/her professional life pointed in the book by Pope, Sonne, and Greene (2010). The authors state that the topic of sexual contacts is widely discussed as a part of curriculum for the therapys graduates.
However, equally important topic of sexual feelings that the therapists experience and their implications for the daily practice of the therapists, the perceptions of clients are rarely discussed and acknowledged frankly. It was rather interesting for me to read about the history of such a taboo, the difficulties that researchers in this field experienced when trying to reveal such acute topics due to the controversial content and the necessity to explain the counselors in particular young specialist how to deal with such challenges. The details provided by Pope, Sonne and Greene (2010) seem essential for me, whereas they shed a light on the problems that are rarely discussed in so open mode.
It is worth noting that Kottler (2010) gave me the opportunity to recognize that counseling profession is a lifelong journey, where we help people who appealed for assistance to enjoy piece in their soul again, and rejoice all the moments of their lives. It is a true fact that there is no other profession that can be as fulfilling and satisfying, no other job provides as many opportunities for continual learning and growth.
However, it should be stated that each counselor face numerous burdens and difficulties. The most essential issue is the therapists ability to resist the strong psychological emotions and negative feelings that each client expresses during the helping sessions. Therapists have to deal with the ill mental state of the client taking the form of depression, marriage problems, stress, anger, phobias, chronic pain, domestic violence, parenting or career problems, compulsions, grief, health, and sexual issues.
It should be stated that all the above mentioned difficulties become just a necessary part of the profession that was chosen from personal motives. Such motives include a persons desire to solve his/her personal or professional problems in the first place.
Another important motive is related to the desire of a person to possess power not only over the clients but over persons own life. It is noteworthy that the ability to control the way therapists clients behave or start thinking is also the stimuli for this profession choice.
In addition, having control and power over the decisions clients make, it should be underlined that being a therapist also means a prestigious and respected profession. The clients perceived a therapist as the last instance where they can receive qualified help in solving various problem and sometimes critical situation, to understand the problems of their family life and careers, and to see them from the other side.
I find the vocabulary and style of Kottlers writing as inspiring. The author describes the ability of the therapist to facilitate change in his/her clients lives being the example of enthusiasm and excitement, assuring that he/she is always ready to help in evaluating actions, feelings and thoughts. The therapist makes someones life more balanced and builds a logical chain of consequences for the better understanding of all events taking place.
Moreover, every practicing therapist understands that he/she is a symbol of hope for the client. He/she inspires faith in success, heals the wounded soul, transforms despair into believe that everything is under control in man and everything will happen in such a way that a person desires the most.
I would like to underline that this reading task was very useful for me from the practical point of view. The information proposed was back-to-basics and concise. Nelson-Jones (2012) gave me an opportunity to practice such skills that I find the most needed for me as questioning the right questions or using the body language tools. It was surprising for me to read such no-nonsense and to the point guide of the basic counseling skills that I could apply not only in my professional but in my personal life too.
The above mentioned readings included issues that helped me to understand the complexity of the counselors work. I repeated and learned new requirements to the basic skills counselors had to have to establish a dialogue with the client efficiently, to be able to assist him/her in clarifying the roots of his/her problems and advise the ways of possible decisions to these concerns.
Moreover, one of the most acute topics for me was the issue of therapists assistance with the outer influence made by clients. It is rather a challenging task for the therapist to have a genuine sympathy and understanding, but also to resist aggression, fear or other negative emotions depleting the internal balance of the therapist simultaneously.