Blog

for clients | for counsellors | for trainees


Working at relational depth in counselling
| for counsellors

The concept of Relational Depth is a development from Carl Rogers’ work in person-centred counselling and the core conditions of counsellor authenticity, empathic understanding and client acceptance, as some of the necessary and sufficient conditions for therapeutic change. But where Roger's approach focussed on providing those conditions for the client ... Read More »


Being verbally assertive - the Stuck Record technique
| for clients

The broken record technique involves repeating what you want, calmly and respectfully, without going on the defensive and without giving justifications. It involves being persistent and sticking to the point, politely repeating what you want. Are you old enough to remember LPs? When scratched, the needle could get stuck in one groove and the same part ... Read More »


Choosing a counsellor
| for clients

Trying to decide which counsellor to engage can feel confusing. Often people looking for counselling aren't experienced at understanding what to expect or what different approaches are available. So what should you think about when choosing a counsellor? Are they fully trained and qualified? In the UK a qualified therapist ... Read More »


Managing Counsellor-Client Boundaries in an Electronic World
| for trainees

Increasingly, therapists need to be aware of their electronic presence, and how that might affect their clients. Here are some pointers. Email and texting may be a very common or normal way of communicating for your client, especially for younger client groups, but you may want to take care that it doesn’t become a way of avoiding relating fully. We live in ... Read More »


Encoded messages and missing links
| for counsellors

Often the client can give us messages about their feelings toward us in encoded form. The therapist in this situation may or may not be right in suspecting that this is an encoded message about the therapeutic relationship, but it’s often useful to work on the assumption that it might be, and to explore the possibility. The mechanisms that underpin this can be ... Read More »


The importance of therapeutic re-experiencing
| for counsellors

Merton Gill (1914-94) challenged Freud’s notion that it was enough to remember repressed material for therapeutic change to ensue. He suggested that simply remembering was not enough: the key was re-experiencing it. Gill’s conditions for therapeutic re-experiencing of impulses, feelings and expectations are: they must be experienced while in the ... Read More »


Reflecting feelings
| for trainees

Active listening with the goal of empathic understanding has a very strong focus on the feelings being expressed and to responding to those feelings. When you feed back your perceptions of the emotions that the other person may be experiencing, this is called reflecting feelings. Reflecting feelings, in the person centred model, is not a ... Read More »


Boundaries - the invisible lines that keep us safe
| for trainees

Boundaries are the limits you set on what you will allow and on how you relate to others. They are “invisible lines” that separate the participants in a relationship and allow them to take responsibility for their lives, respect others, and to meet their obligations. Your boundaries are how you keep yourself physically and emotionally safe, so it's very important to ... Read More »


Active listening
| for trainees

Active listening means using a set of skills that encourage the person you are listening to to talk, to help them feel heard and understood. We call them "skills" because anyone (excepting certain mental health disorders) can, with application, learn to use these. And we call them “active” because it means intentionally doing things to help people feel able to talk, and because ... Read More »


On being interested in the client
| for trainees

When we are working with clients, we can find ourselves being caught up in thinking how we should work with them, or what we ought to say next. But this can take our focus away from what’s going on for the client in that moment. Congruence and acceptance are ways of being with the client. Empathic understanding, on the other hand needs to ... Read More »


Projective identification
| for counsellors

Projection is when I attribute to you some attitude or feeling which is not actually yours, but is mine. By doing this I am able to disavow part of myself. For example, I might see others as hostile and angry, where it was actually myself that had those feelings. In projective identification I project some part of myself onto you in such a way that ... Read More »


Countertransference
| for counsellors

Countertransference was first identified by Freud, whose position it was that it was harmful to the therapeutic relationship, and was something that the analyst should guard against. Since then definition has changed over time, and also varies between authors, so you may come across other definitions in your reading. In this early formulation, countertransference was ... Read More »


Archetypes and the collective unconscious
| for counsellors

Whereas Freud’s unconscious focussed on the biographical – a place where memories of life-experience could be repressed from conscious awareness – Jung’s notion of the unconscious focussed on the biological – that depth-unconscious that we inherit by virtue of being human, which we are born with, which is the same in ... Read More »


Working with eye movements
| for counsellors

Eye movements not only give hints about the client's mental processes - they can also affect them. typical eye patterns Studies have shown that there are typical patterns of eye movements that often correspond to types of thoughts and feelings. But well as eye movements indicating what is going on for the client, the reverse can hold - making those ... Read More »


Eye movements as clues to client processes
| for counsellors

Studies have shown that there are typical patterns of eye movements that often correspond to types of thoughts and feelings. Eye movements can give you hints and clues about what's going on for the person, but shouldn't be mistaken for factual evidence.  Be aware also, that these movements can be fleeting - it can take some practice to tune in to them. ... Read More »


The Importance of Endings in the Counselling Process
| for trainees

Counselling aims to reach a point where the client need no longer come to sessions. So from the very start, the process contains the seeds of its own ending. Counsellors can use the ending process as a chance to celebrate the successes. They can help the client look back at the progress they’ve made, and the resources they’ve found within ... Read More »


Recognising the shadow in counselling
| for counsellors

In an episode of the TV show The Simpsons, one of the characters said that he liked working as a security officer because it satisfied both his desire to help people and his desire to hurt people. Of course this was a joke, but its funniness lay in the truth behind it, and in that there is a warning message there for anyone in a helping role, that we need to be aware of any ... Read More »


Acceptance
| for trainees

Acceptance, sometimes called Unconditional Positive Regard or UPR, is an attitude of non-judgemental warmth. It means having acceptance of the other person, exactly as they are, as a separate person entitled to their own feelings and experiences. It means having a willingness to let the person be in touch with whatever feeling is going on for them in the ... Read More »


Using the Metamodel to enhance your listening skills
| for trainees

In essence, the Metamodel is a simple way of identifying what it might be useful to explore in relation to what the other person has said. It was formalised in the 1970s by Richard Bandler and John Grinder, the founders of NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming). Bandler and Grinder studied the techniques of famous therapists, such as ... Read More »


What is transference?
| for counsellors

Transference happens when we displace onto people unconscious wishes and fears which more properly relate to figures from our past, such as mother, father or other important figure. It involves inappropriately bringing the past into the present. We tend to imagine, without any real evidence, that others have the motives, intentions and feelings that those ... Read More »


How can I make use of silence as a listening skill?
| for trainees

If people are engaged with their feelings, or coming to an awareness of them, sometimes it takes them time to process what’s going on or to find ways of putting it into words. Giving them space instead of “jumping in” with something to say lets them stay with that process and helps them work to a better understanding of what’s going on for them. Most people are ... Read More »


How are counselling theories useful?
| for counsellors

A counselling theory is a set of hypotheses about what makes people tick, and how that might inform our work as counsellors. Theories are useful because they are predictive - they tell you what may be happening or what might happen - and because they are explanatory - they make sense of what has already happened or how things are now. Theories are ... Read More »


Your Support Network
| for clients

People tend to find that they cope better with situations and enjoy life more if they have the support of family and friends. So reviewing your informal support network can be a useful exercise to check that you have support available for when you need it. Your informal support networks are the personal ties you have with others. Friends, relatives and ... Read More »


Empathy
| for trainees

Empathy is the natural ability to sense what is going on emotionally for the other person. It means having a felt sense of what is going on for the other person. It is the ability to put yourself in their shoes and have an awareness of what they are feeling, how they think, how they see the world. It involves sensing the other person’s ... Read More »


Non-verbal messages
| for trainees

Our body language and non-verbal behaviour plays a big part in whether the person we are listening to is comfortable with us: being open – not crossing your arms or frowning at them; leaning forward – to show interest and attentiveness (although sometimes it may be more appropriate to be in rapport by matching the speaker’s posture, if they are ... Read More »


Self-transcendence
| for counsellors

Ernest Becker writing on the limits of psychotherapy, points out that opening one’s eyes to existential realities can not only result in greater feelings of wholeness and joy, but can also leave one with a greater awareness of the problematic nature of the realities of their situation. This reinforces the deep responsibility that is placed on the psychotherapist, not to undermine ... Read More »


Providing therapy for witnesses in court cases
| for counsellors

Some counsellors refuse therapy to those in impending court cases, for fear of being seen as "coaching" witnesses. But guidance does exist to help navigate this tricky area. The 1998 report Speaking Up For Justice, recommended that vulnerable or intimidated witnesses should not be denied emotional support and counselling, and that they may need ... Read More »


How do you know you're getting counselling?
| for clients

How do you know you're getting counselling? Seems like an odd question but many people go in for counselling and psychotherapy without knowing what to expect. If you're new to therapy, then it's important to be able to recognise what constitutes an appropriate and professional service. Here are some common characteristics. We use the ... Read More »


The role of self-disclosure as a helper
| for trainees

Self-disclosure is sharing information about yourself with others that they would not normally know or discover. What is unknown will be different for different people depending on their relationship to you and the context in which you meet. Self-disclosure involves risk and vulnerability on the part of the person disclosing, but can also, when ... Read More »


Pluralism as a model of Integration
| for counsellors

Pluralism “refers simply to the belief that there is no, one best set of therapeutic methods. It can be defined as the assumption that different clients are likely to benefit from different therapeutic methods at different points in time, and that therapists should work collaboratively with clients to help them identify what they want from therapy and how they might achieve it.” ... Read More »


Minimal encouragers - a staple of active listening
| for trainees

Minimal encouragers are small signals that let the speaker know you are listening and understanding – words like “uh-huh”, “yes”, “no”, “mmm”, and little actions like nodding that show you are engaged in listening. They encourage the speaker to talk, with minimum interruption or influence by the listener. Once the speaker begins to talk, the listener uses well-placed ... Read More »


Freedom and responsibility - two sides of the same coin
| for counsellors

Often counsellors hear their clients saying "I have no choice", which in reality can mean that the choices in question feel so difficult that they do not see them as possibilities. But failing to notice that we do things by choice - or fail to do them - can leave us feeling helpless and disempowered. One of the best-kept secrets of interpersonal relationships is ... Read More »


Models of Integration
| for counsellors

Integration, in counselling, is used to describe either an integration of two or more models of counselling or psychotherapy, or a theoretically sound integration of therapeutic techniques into an existing model. The difference between working integratively and working eclectically, is that although both approaches draw on multiple models, an ... Read More »


Confidentiality - the limits on what you can expect in counselling
| for clients

Counsellors treat client dislosures as confidential, but they can't promise complete confidentiality in all circumstances When counsellors make a contract with the client, there are normally three exceptions to the provision of confidentiality, in the following circumstances: If required to by law; In relation to their own supervision; or Where there is a risk of ... Read More »


Feedback
| for trainees

Feedback helps us to become more aware of what we do and how we do it. If you are asked for feedback on another's interpersonal skills or behaviour, it helps to: Focus on the person's behaviour, not the person directly. Focus on something that the person can do something about. Give your observations – what you saw or heard, not what you ... Read More »


How does counselling differ from other types of helping?
| for trainees

Counselling is different from other forms of helping. Here are the chief characteristics. A contracted activity. Counselling involves an explicit agreement between the counsellor and the client. This means that the client must consent to counselling and will be aware that the relationship is a counselling one. A psychological therapy. Whereas ... Read More »


Immediacy
| for trainees

Immediacy involves using the immediate situation to invite the other person to look at what is going on between you in the relationship. Since it involves being open about our immediate reactions and feelings, it is very closely connected to the core condition of congruence. Being immediate, being able to respond in the moment, is an essential part of ... Read More »


Matching and Mirroring
| for trainees

Active listening involves being in rapport or “in tune” with the person we are listening to. One way of helping achieve rapport, so that the other person can feel more comfortable and safe in our presence, is matching: adopting aspects of their behaviour, such as particular body language, gestures, tone of voice or forms of speech. ... Read More »


When questions don't help
| for trainees

Some types of question can be problematic in counselling and should be used sparingly Closed questions can be unhelpful because they invite a small range of short responses. They can tend to discourage the person from saying more, and can narrow the person’s choice of how to respond naturally. Asking more than one question at a time is usually confusing and is ... Read More »


What a therapist isn't
| for trainees

If you use helping skills, or train as a therapist, it helps to remember that: you are not a sage; it is unwise to try to be wise. You are not there to give your clients words of wisdom. In working with the client you can help them feel safe enough to explore and reflect in ways that put them in touch with their own wisdom. You are not an ... Read More »


Summarising and Paraphrasing
| for trainees

Summarising involves taking what someone has said over a prolonged period and putting it in a nutshell – a sentence or a few sentences that condense what might have taken a few minutes or longer to say. Summarising at the end of a session carries the danger that it feels like you're putting everything back in the box, before the client leaves. Much of the work of therapy is the ... Read More »


Integrative counselling - an overview
| for counsellors

Integration, in counselling, is used to describe either an integration of two or more models of counselling or psychotherapy, or a theoretically sound integration of therapeutic techniques into an existing model. The difference between working integratively and working eclectically, is that although both approaches draw on multiple models, an integrative practitioner works ... Read More »


Counselling models and the pretence of totality
| for counsellors

Viktor Frankl, founder of Logotherapy, stated: “There is no psychotherapy without a theory of man and a philosophy of life underlying it. Wittingly or unwittingly, psychotherapy is based on them.” (Frankl 1988:15). He objected to layered or stratified models as ways of conceptualising people: “Conceiving of man in terms of bodily, mental and spiritual strata or layers means dealing with him as if his somatic, psychic, and noetic modes of being ... Read More »


Using questions as a helping skill
| for trainees

Asking questions is one way of finding out more from the person we are listening to. In active listening, it helps to ask open questions, ones that invite a wide range of responses, rather than closed ones (ones that invite a limited number of responses, like “yes” or “no”). Open questions encourage the person to go on speaking, and give them freer choice of how to respond and ... Read More »


Enhancing your listening skills by repeating words and phrases
| for trainees

Have you heard the phrase “All roads lead to Rome”? Whichever word or phrase you use, the speaker will tend to relate it back to what’s going on for them, so if you are listening sensitively then the same issues are likely to emerge in the end, whichever route you take to them. Using words or small phrases like this lets you “nudge” the conversation in various directions, without ... Read More »


Rogers' Seven Stages of Process
| for trainees

Carl Rogers' model of therapy stages can be useful to help assess progress in therapy, and for communication with other professionals. As part of the theory of Person Centred Counselling, Carl Rogers suggested that the client's growth in self-development could be identified as follows: Stage One: client is very defensive and resistant to ... Read More »


Therapeutic insights and blind spots
| for counsellors

Erich Fromm succinctly lays out the crucial discoveries of Freud, that: "people are largely determined by irrational drives most of these drives are unconscious attempts to bring them to awareness meet with energetic resistance apart from their particular constitutions, people’s development is largely determined by circumstances operating in childhood ... Read More »


The Core Conditions for Therapeutic Change
| for trainees

Carl Rogers developed an approach to counselling called the Person Centred Approach. He believed that we all have a natural tendency towards growth and wholeness, but that, often, difficult life experiences lead us to have a negative concept of ourselves, in one way or another. Rogers believed that when people have the opportunity to be ... Read More »


Congruence
| for trainees

Congruence is about being genuine – being yourself in your relationships with other people, without any pretence or façade. When we are congruent, how we act and what we say is consistent with how we are feeling and what we are thinking. This is not always easy to do – our own fears and anxieties can get in the way – but with practice it can be ... Read More »


What training do I need to be recognised as a counsellor?
| for trainees

At the time of writing this, the terms counsellor and psychotherapist are not protected by law (this article refers to the UK only), so anyone can call themselves a counsellor without any training at all. (A few related terms are protected - for instance people using the title Arts Therapist and Practitioner Psychologist must register with the Health and ... Read More »


What is an ethical dilemma?
| for trainees

A dilemma is a situation where you have to choose between two or more alternatives, each of which has problematic consequences. An ethical dilemma asks you to make a choice between alternatives where each one has consequences that are difficult ethically. Examples of situations that give rise to ethical dilemmas are: ... Read More »


Challenging
| for trainees

person’s feelings, thinking or behaviour that they are tending to overlook or ignore. In everyday life, “challenging someone” can have negative connotations, carrying the idea of conflict and confrontation. In the field of counselling skills it means something slightly different. Each of us perceives the world differently – we have our own unique ways of ... Read More »


The Multidimensional Integrative Framework
| for counsellors

In their text Integration in Counselling and Psychotherapy Lapworth and Sills (2010) attempt to show how an integrative framework can grow out of a therapist’s defined philosophy and beliefs about human experience. At the centre of the framework diagram is the notion of self, with the needs of self which, through therapy the practitioner is aiming to ... Read More »


Does incongruence compound the damage of neglect?
| for counsellors

A study by Rollo May, in his first book, The Meaning of Anxiety, based on his doctoral thesis, highlights the importance of congruence in relation to those who are in a carer role to us in childhood. May carried out a study of anxiety in single mothers, and found that neurotic anxiety didn't correlate with experiences of parental rejection per se, but rather with ... Read More »


Safety in the helping relationship
| for trainees

Safety in the helping relationship often refers to the client's emotional safety and physical safety. But the helper's safety is important too. Emotional safety Creating a sense of emotional safety for the person being helped involves: building trust: through the use of rapport skills; being genuine: a sense of congruence from the helper; and valuing and accepting the person - what in the ... Read More »


Sandplay
| for counsellors

Sandplay is a way of working symbolically with the client. The therapist invites the client to create a scene in the sand tray, using the objects available for doing so and sculpting the sand too if they want. The therapist need not give the client more information than that, but might do, to help the client feel ‘held’ if they are unsure about the ... Read More »


Perceiving accurately
| for trainees

When clients talk to you, they use language in their own way. But words can mean different things to different people. You are likely to interpret what you hear in terms of how you use language, which will never be exactly how they do, and may sometimes be very different. So taking what people say literally, without checking, or assuming that you ... Read More »


Reflections: C - a case study in counselling and growth
| for trainees

The person in this case study, C, was the fourth of six children. A rather sickly boy, he lived his childhood in a close-knit family in which hard work and a highly conservative, almost fundamentalist Protestant Christianity were equally revered. C.’s parents were, in his own words, "masters of the art of subtle, loving control". As a child he shared little of his private thoughts ... Read More »


Different types of counselling
| for clients

How do you choose between the many types of counselling and psychotherapy that are out there? Sometimes you might feel that you're being expected to be an expert before you even embark on therapy. All roads lead to Rome, and whatever approach your counsellor uses, you may well end up focussing on the same underlying issues. However ... Read More »


Reframing
| for counsellors

Reframing is where you change the meaning or context of something so that the client can see it differently, with the aim of creating a shift in feelings, perceptions or behaviour. Though not always termed as such, reframing has been around at least since the 1940s, in the work of practitioners like Viktor Frankl and Milton Erickson. ... Read More »


Three metamorphoses of the spirit
| for counsellors

Counsellors sometimes utilise models of human development, and when working transpersonally can often use metaphor. This allegory from Nietzche combines both His image of the developed individual as a wheel rolling out of its own centre ("aus sich rollenden Rad") may also be equated with Rogers & Maslow's self-actualised individual. Like most ... Read More »


The triangle of insight
| for counsellors

When working with transference, we are helping the client make connections between three contexts: in here (in the relationship between therapist and client); out there (in the client’s relationships with others); and back then (relationships from the client’s past). The most effective of these, therapeutically, usually involves working with ... Read More »


Borderline Personality Disorder
| for counsellors

The term “Borderline” was first introduced more than sixty years ago to describe those who fell between being psychotic and neurotic but could not be classified properly as either. Although this concept was rejected in the seventies, the name has stuck. The primary features of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) are impulsivity and instability in relationships, self-image, and ... Read More »


Jane Elliott: The Anatomy of Prejudice
| for counsellors

Elliott is best know for the “brown-eyes blue-eyes” exercise she developed in the sixties as a primary school teacher, and has carried out repeatedly since, to give people a sense of what it feels like to experience colour prejudice. The idea came to her when she heard the news of Martin Luther King’s assassination, and felt that there must be something ... Read More »


Feminist Counselling
| for counsellors

Feminist counselling attempts to actively address the problems of social inequities, especially gender inequalities, in counselling. As befits a movement that challenges authoritarianism in the development of counselling and psychotherapy, there is no “authorised” definition of Feminist Counselling. Not so much a school as a mode of working (encompassing, e.g., ... Read More »


How does confidentiality work in counselling?
| for trainees

Counsellors treat client dislosures as confidential, but they can't promise complete confidentiality in all circumstances. When a counsellor makes a contract with the client, there are normally three exceptions to the provision of confidentiality, in the following circumstances: If required to by law; In relation to their own supervision; Where there is a risk of harm to self or others. ... Read More »


All articles are written by BACP-Accredited therapists with a background teaching on BACP-Accredited counselling courses.

For permissions on individual article reuse, please check the relevant article.