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Do your clients feel safe enough to cry in front of you?
| for trainees

One of the challenges as a trainee counsellor is knowing how to work with clients who cry. Our natural impulses, and cultural conditioning, may both lead us to have the strong impulse to comfort the client - to placate and sooth. We might also display a discomfort that prompts the client to stop, or makes it feel less safe for them to start crying. ... 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 »


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 »


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 »


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 »


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 »


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 »


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 »


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 »


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 »


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 »


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 »


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 in the UK?
| 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 »


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 »


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 »


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 »


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