Mental stigma often stops people from admitting that they are receiving counselling or have had counselling. What about if the counsellor admits they had counselling? Is that self-disclosing or reassuring for clients to know that their counsellor has been through the counselling process and believes in his or her heart that counselling can help? This question led me to self-reflect on how the counselling process helped me develop to train as a counsellor and increase my self-awareness with my clients.
Exploring feelings and self awareness in counselling
I first saw a counsellor 16 years ago when I was struggling accepting a difficult bereavement and being part of a counselling process enabled me to move forward in my life. More importantly the counselling enabled me to increase my critical self-awareness. I saw a person-centred counsellor who used a process based on our relationship 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. However, I was left not knowing how to move forward and needed help to change my thoughts and learn coping strategies for my stress related job.
I subsequently saw a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist (CBT). The sessions I had with him 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 Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. When I decided to become a counsellor I explored how these two approaches could be integrated together into a unified approach thus leading me to study for an integrative counselling course.
Self-awareness with my clients
The counselling I underwent illustrated the importance of trust 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.
Through my exploration in 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.
Counselling 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.