Life experience shaping a counsellor

life experience shaping a counsellorSelf-awareness grows over a period of time and with exploration.  My self-awareness has been shaped by my life experiences, through the help of counselling and through self-reflection.  This has helped me to learn to understand myself, my reactions and understand my own values.  In my early twenties I experienced a traumatic bereavement and I will demonstrate how this life experience shaped me as a counsellor.

Counselling and self awareness

The counselling enabled me to increase my own critical awareness.  I first used a person-centred counsellor. The counsellor used a process, together with a selection of techniques that helped me uncover underlying feelings and reasons for my low mood. Specifically, the process revealed to me the extent of my grief and as a result I became more aware of my feelings. This increased awareness allowed me to explore how I could accept my grief, by understanding that I was in control of who I am, and how I acted. As a result, I ensure that I endeavour to increase my clients’ and my own self-awareness as a core part of my practice.

Developing my integrative approach

I then subsequently had  cognitive Behavoural Therapy  (CBT). These counselling sessions demonstrated how a process that is coupled to selected tools and techniques, could give me an insight both into my self-perception as well as how I could change my outlook for the better. Reflecting back, the person-centred approaches enabled me to engage more productively with the CBT counselling. This has led me towards exploring how these two approaches could be integrated together into a unified approach.

Trust and empathy builds a relationship

Third, the counselling I underwent illustrated the importance of trust and empathy as the basis of the therapeutic relationship. The counselling techniques used helped me progress in a positive way. As such, I have developed a counselling approach that is primarily focused upon the therapeutic relationship, using different tools to help the client move forward.

Self-awareness continues to grow

My self-awareness has developed throughout my life, and continues to be shaped by new experiences, and I take the time to reflect regularly. Reflection enables me to identify and develop self-awareness, whilst also establishing a critical feedback loop that provides me with the data to explore new aspects of my thoughts, feelings and character traits. Reflection activities also facilitate my dissociation with the emotions of a client during an engagement, in order that I can explore my own values and beliefs in relation to the therapeutic relationship. There have been times when a client’s dialogue has triggered my own memories, or when I have been faced with situations that I have not encountered before. The practice of reflection increases my confidence to deal with such scenarios in a more rational way, either by helping me to resolve the issue myself, or by indicating when I need to seek further assistance.

My life experience has helped me demonstrate the need to build a deeper empathy and understanding with my clients. Every problem is unique and real to that client. Through the process of counselling I have realised that my critical self-awareness can enable more positive progress to be made. This has informed how I approach clients, as my self-awareness helps me to empathise with the client and their issues, and helps me select the most appropriate approach or tool to suit them.

Experiencing vulnerability

Through the exploration of my grief with counselling, I experienced times when I felt vulnerable. I observe this vulnerability in my clients and I focus my energies on building a therapeutic relationship of trust. I do this by contracting with clients and focusing on using core counselling skills such as reflecting and active listening, to ensure a trusting relationship is established.

Life experiences continue to shape me

Life lessons and hard knocks do not stop when you become a counsellor or therapist. We are human beings and encounter bereavement, illness and loss just like everyone else. Since training for a counsellor, I have continued to have good and bad life experiences. The difference is that I have learnt to reflect (through writing) to help me process the event and to seek counselling when I need it. This enables me to process my emotions and ensure my issues do not enter into the counselling or hinder my empathetic, non-judgemental listening. This enables me to stay focused on my clients and their issues. Counselling also helps me continue to grow and challenge the inner me, as well as enlighten me.

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Hazel Hill has a private supervision and counselling practice in Sheffield. As well as having a private Sheffield and online practice, her clinical experience includes working for IAPT, EAP's affiliate work, and charity. Hazel specialises in workplace counselling, bereavement, anxiety and depression and outdoors counselling. You can contact her on 07814 363855

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