One of the misconceptions of counselling is that the counsellor or therapist has all the answers. The counsellor has a number of techniques which have been learnt, practiced and acquired that can be helpful to the client.
A counsellor isn’t there to tell you how you should and shouldn’t lead your life. Your life is something that only you have experience on, and you are the only expert to your life.
A counsellor is there to facilitate the depth of exploration the client is wanting to achieve. The best way to do this is through empathy, congruence and unconditional positive regard.
Empathy is a skill that can be learnt overtime but there also needs to be a genuine desire of the counsellor to want to show empathy to their client. The counsellor is not using their own experience as a measure. They are walking with the client in the clients shoes and experiencing the world through their eyes.
Congruence is being aware of the way that you feel, that then matches with your outer experience. Having awareness of how you are feeling at all times can be difficult for any person but within a session a counsellor needs to congruent and vigilant of any arising feelings. If the counsellor is incongruent and so is the client, then it can be difficult to create a therapeutic relationship.
Some may say that by sharing with the client how they are receiving the client is congruent, but what benefit does that have to the client? If you are shocked about something the client has said, by stating you are shocked can put the client off from opening up to you in the future.
There needs to be balance in the way you demonstrate congruence. The counsellor needs to be real with the client, but not confrontational. Being authentic and real with the client should only be done if it will benefit the client in some way.
Another aspect of counselling is providing the client with unconditional positive regard. This doesn’t mean showering the client with praises or to “rescue” the client from the feeling they may be experiencing.
Unconditional positive regard is achieved through respecting the other, being non-judgemental and showing acceptance. The counsellor is accepting the client for who they are. Acceptance that they are unique and the expert to their own life and the experience they share.
The counsellor shows Acceptance through their manner and words. The counsellor values the client and accept their opinion, their values and beliefs. Accepting the client as a unique individual allows the counsellor nurture and care for the client within the session.
Taking the clients lead is very important, and going at their pace means not rushing them to disclose any information they may not be comfortable sharing. Allowing them the time and space to explore what they need to. Only then can the therapeutic relationship be developed.