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One of the primary goals of a helping relationship is to help others to help themselves. The helping relationship supports people to change as they learn to think things through for themselves and make their own decisions, free from judgement. To succeed, helpers must trust and believe that all people have worth, that they are capable of changing and that they possess some personal strengths and abilities. They must trust that others can and will grow in their own time and in their own way (Roger’s, 1957). In trusting another, we are communicating our faith that they are capable, thereby enabling the person to seek help to believe this as well (Egan, 2010).
Experts in counselling have suggested that to be effective, helpers need to focus on common personal attributes and skills such as interpersonal skills, personal beliefs and attitudes, conceptual ability, personal soundness, mastery of technique, the ability to understand and work within social systems and openness to inquiry (McLeod, 2003). In this essay, I highlight several competences as the major theme through which I will share my experiences and discuss the key skills used in the helping process. I have furthermore tried to make the reference to relevant literature, linking my experiences to Carl Roger’s person-centered theory of intervention.
I am looking forward to reflecting and gaining a deeper insight on the skills that a counsellor may employ to handle the different situations to help others, through the detailed discussion on my particular experience (Egan, 2007, p. 13).
An effective helper possess interpersonal skills such as the ability actively listen and to communicate through verbal and nonverbal channels. They convey empathy and warmth at the same time as being sensitive and respectful in their responses and overall expression of emotion, turn-taking and use of time.
Roger (1957) proposes that in order to facilitate a therapeutic relationship the helper should provide core conditions of empathy, congruence and acceptance (as it is cited in McLeod, 2003). When applying empathy, I visualise what the problem situation looks like from their perspective and I try to understand how they must be feeling and thinking internally. Clarke (2007) likens empathy to an ‘as if’ attitude of understanding an event from a client’s frame of reference (p. 14). To have a better understanding the situation that the person was experiencing I had to listen empathetically so as to project myself into the personality of the speaker. This gave me understanding the speaker’s feelings and emotions. By applying emphatic listening I let the speaker know that I understood his problem and how he was feeling about the problem, I showed great interest to what the person was telling me, at the same time I showing that I did not judge him for condition he was in. During my listening I unmistakably conveyed the message of my understanding through verbal and non-verbal behaviors, which included body language. In doing this, I encouraged the person to fully and freely express himself without any criticism, interruption or telling him what to or not to do. I neither agreed nor disagreed with him, even when he wanted me to do so. I often let the person know that I understood him and I was interested in becoming a resourceful help in resolving the problem facing him. From this experience, my listening strengthened our interpersonal effectiveness.
Through listening and allowing the speaker to express his concern I was able to control the flow of his emotions by my:
a) Showing attention to the speakers concern.
b) Being careful not to interrupt.
c) Willing to let him dominate the discussion and taking no side of his conflicting issues.
d) Asking some open ended questions.
e) Being sensitive to the emotions that he expressed.
At the end of session my aim to listen to the problem that was bothering the speaker was to increase his confidence and self-esteem, showing him that he matters and was not acting a judge, but to the contrary I was there to offer the help he needed most. I was also able to gain his cooperation, reduced the tension and stress through developing hope and trust in him.
Through my verbal and nonverbal messages, I am trying to infer that “I understand how you are feeling,” and that “I am with you”. However, a person who sees that a listener is really trying to understand their meanings will be willing to explore their problems and/or self on a deeper level (Egan, 2010).
Empathy is surprisingly difficult to achieve. We all have a strong tendency to advise, tell, agree or disagree from our own point of view. During my interaction with the speaker I was able to assess the problem that was troubling him. From his speaking and gestures I understood that self-esteem had been replaced with self-pity. So I had to show him that there was hope and he still had the control of the situation at hand. This was in an attempt to rebuild the lost self-esteem in him. Throughout I demonstrated fairness and objectivity by being non-judgmental during the discussion, giving attention to every point the speaker was expressing and allowing him to have ample time to speak. I also wanted to create an environment of non partiality, where the speaker would trust me and that together as a team we could come up with a solution to the problem. As the session continued the empathetic listening that I was offering to the person paved way and the person could speak more openly even concerning other issues that he thought could have led to the current issue, though at first he had not brought them forward.
From this interaction, I was able to develop listening skills. I was able to spend more time listening than speaking. It was an optimal time, to utilize my listening sense than any other sense during the session. The session ended in a discussion manner where I was also able to share with him my own personal experience, this relieved me of the bad memories. The speaker had a feeling that he was wronged and that the person whom he claimed had wronged him was not interested in whatever he was saying. The problem at hand involved a friendship that had fallen apart. The two friends often had been talking past each other and at each other, but they could not talk with each other. None of the parties could believe that the message they were trying to deliver was listened to let alone being understood. They felt disrespected. With such a background, the person was distrustful, close-minded, frustrated, hurt and discouraged.
My role in this situation was to constantly model conflict-management behaviors, I tried to create a friendly environment where the conflicting side had clear heads that could allow them to listen to each other. What I came to understand later, when I got a chance to have both parties on the same table, is that this was their first opportunity they had ever had to express their stories in full. Giving them all the time and playing a coordinator, the parties were able to hear for the first time things that they had not heard before and speak things of equal magnitudes. This openness broadened their understanding to the perception of each other on the issues that between them. This opportunity opened their previously closed-mind and created a receptivity to the views that later happened to be the building block for sustainable settlement. By creation of an environment where there was trust I hoped that some threads of trust would start to bond the two persons while at the same time substitute the negative images that they had for each other. It was until I created this environment to listen form the aggrieved persons on the table that it came clear to me the root of the conflict. The moment I identified the core of the issue, a settlement to that phase of problem was just a step away.
A helper’s personal beliefs, values and attitudes are also key competencies. Possessing the knowhow to accept others and conviction in the exploring the potential for change, awareness of ethical and moral choices. Moreover, sensitivity to the values held by oneself and by the person seeking help. An attitude is an uncompleted or potential tuning behavior process. Is a view of person towards the condition to which is calling for his adjustment. Once the adjustment is done, the attitude will disappear. At first I assumed that both parties were biased in their view of the problem, where each party was trying to justify its opinion. By assuming this position, I worked towards bringing both parties to the table. This was, however, done after listening to the two sides of the story. By helping to resolve this problem I was able to develop confidence, trust and hope in the parties that were conflicting. This experience had a positive impact on my perspectives toward the feelings of other people. I was also able to take a neutral position during the whole period of settling the conflict. I had a lower attitude at first on the opinion of others, especially when they seemed irrational or in disagreement with my own attitude toward an issue that demanded my adjustment. It is through this experience that I learnt the importance of listening as a way of settling conflicts. I learnt to appreciate the diversity of beliefs that are held by others. Even though the entire crisis was not resolved on the mediation table, positive altitudes have a profound contact on the parties. The experience enabled me to mediate the case and appreciate the role played by the having attitude that can accommodate the views of other people. From the start of the mediation, I believed that the problem could be resolved and a sustainable solution attained at the end of the discussion. These people could sometimes confront each other on the table of mediation and I had to interrupt them, telling them that but getting back to the past incidents could not lead to amendment of the issue, I made sure that at such an occasion a short break or diversion of the course of discussion ensured their mind was clear to continue with the amendment of the conflict.
Cognitive ability, clarity and flexibility are examples of other key competencies. An effective helper understands how to access the core issue, apply it to the helping model while considering differing aspects of the person’s social world such as their gender, ethnic or sexual orientation and age group. The motive of helping the parties to settle their differences was to ensure that they understand the role each one played to make the situation the way it is. At the end of the discussion each person was aware of the role he could have taken to save their relationship from the crisis in which they found themselves into. This was important so as to give them a foundation to the future where they can solve such problems without including a third party. At the end they agreed to amend the differences with understanding. They help me in upholding cognitive ability as a way of resolving conflicts.
Awareness of self-absence of personal needs or irrational beliefs that are destructive to the therapeutic alliance, self-confidence, the ability to tolerate strong or uncomfortable feelings in relation to clients, secure personal boundaries, ability to accept a client, absence of social prejudice and authoritarianism. In the case of conflict discussed above self awareness played important role, by creating self-esteem in the mind of the conflicting persons, they came to the awareness their ability to amend issues that may arise among them in future. Their potential to handle conflict with understanding among themselves started to develop. Once their minds were clear they were able to see the part played by the lack of self-awareness.
The foregoing discussion tries to cover some aspects of counselling and due to the nature of their field it is extremely hard to exhaust all the aspects or approaches in this field. In a nutshell, counselling is a complex and a very wide field, a number of approaches exists in the world and the best method to be used by the counselors is left to be an individual decision. Every approach has got its own merits and demerits, individuals should be guided by the weight of each of each side of the coin.
In counseling, it should be noted that listening is a very important aspect and it is of paramount interest for the parties involved to watch their motives. We should always strive to apply the best counselling skills and try our level best to involve our audience in the right manner. Helping others is one of the most valuable deeds that one can engage in, apart from helping the other party one is able to acquire extra satisfaction and a mutual gain is experienced. Counsel willingly, respectively and calmly. In such a way we will all gain valuable things from each other since each individual bears a different passion and background from the other one.