In TV dramas, we often watch scenes in which a troubled person is being counselled. Often, the counsellor is seen as a person who makes in-depth observations of the client, who tells the individual what to do and why. The counsellor is seen by viewers as being wise, outwitting the client and ourselves with superior judgement and perception. However, this is not counselling as such. It is advice-giving.
The reasons trained counsellors do not give advice are many. They include the following:
- Rather than the client being empowered to work through the problems experienced, he or she is advised what to do. This means that the client is not active in the whole process.
- We all perceive our experiences of life uniquely. Therefore, any advice given will often say more about the adviser than it does about the person receiving it.
- People may not want advice. Instead, they may prefer to be listened to, understood, and to have a voice.
- Equality is an important ingredient of counselling. If the counsellor plays the ‘expert’ role, then this equality is compromised.
- Even if advice given is good advice, the person being counselled does not change, and as such, does not learn to make good decisions in the future.
People may ask for advice when feeling helpless or wanting to bypass the need for fundamental change. Receiving advice is much easier than undertaking an often painful process of self examination and change.
How is the use of counselling skills different? This includes:
- creating and maintaining a warm and genuine relationship – sometimes called ‘rapport’ – where the individual feels accepted, without judgement, whatever is said
- giving a person full attention, actively listening and being mindful of what the individual is communicating, both verbally and non-verbally
- creating and maintaining a warm and genuine relationship – in which the person feels accepted and listened to, without judgement
- making clear any ambiguous or generalised statements
- summarising what a person says in order to show understanding
- highlighting some key points that need special attention, and promoting the exploration of these themes so that the person can identify and explore some options for action.
Many people use counselling skills in their everyday working roles. These include teachers, nurses, social workers and care workers. Counselling skills help you to work with people during periods of personal development, as well as in times of crisis or distress.
Using these skills, you will provide time and attention, together with a safe environment, which enables a person being helped to explore problems from different perspectives.