When I first became a counsellor, I was outcome focused and wanting to make a difference. My work centred in helping the client have a better life and I worked hard, often seeking reassurance.
In the last few years, I have become curious about the counselling process and more focused on the client’s transformation using that process. As a result of believing and trusting the counselling process, I am calmer and unfazed as to what my clients bring to sessions. I seek to help clients become passionate about themselves and become self-aware. I have become goal-focused and see greater value in the strategies and exercises used to help the clients gain more from the counselling. As a result, I now expose my clients to things they may not have done before, for example, journal writing, art or grounding techniques.
Since my initial accreditation I use my supervision with more intention. I no longer go to my supervisor asking for advice, I go with questions and reflections of the counselling process and I use reflective practice as part of my development. This journey in my own development has been enriched by conversations with my supervisor, peers, reading, targeting specific CPD and experiential learning.
My work is underpinned by the relational humanistic approach. I focus entirely on the relationship and depending on what the client brings, I will integrate different tools from my tool box, such as creative therapy and somatic therapy. I work with individuals and since in private practice my clients have changed to short term clients (EAPs, insurance companies private clients and refugees I have therefore adapted to time limited therapy.
After attending Mick Cooper’s ‘An Introduction and Practical Implication of a Pluralistic Approach’ course, I have found some pluralistic approaches useful, such as goal setting with clients, and regularly reviewing the work is a tool I now use.
I have developed in the following ways:
- My awareness of parallel processes, especially when the story is close to my own. To avoid bringing this into the room and becoming my agenda, I have examined this in both my own personal therapy and with my supervisor. I found I was assuming how my clients were feeling, limiting my use of empathy. Being acutely aware of parallel processes has allowed to focus on the clients and know I am uniquely helping the client. It has also helped me to know when it is appropriate to refer on. In the past, I might have referred straight away whereas now I can continue working with the client with the help of my own written reflections and supervision.
- My confident and sensitive use of immediacy has developed by reading Yalom’s ‘Gift of Therapy’ book and attending Robin Sohet’s Love and Supervision’ day course. Being comfortable with sharing how I am feeling and experiencing our relationship has helped the client to think about themselves. I focus on the relationship, often checking in with the client to ask how we are doing and being aware of any counter transference.
- I found goal setting a useful tool to incorporate into time limited therapy, as well as using measurement techniques similar to CORE 10. I have seen how it has helped the client focus on what they want to achieve from the counselling. It also allows me to check-in with my clients to ensure they remain part of the counselling process. I recognise that when clients have a better understanding of the challenges they are facing, as well as knowledge of personal coping strategies and their own inner strengths, they are better equipped to deal with their difficulties. Another collaborative way of working that I developed is an assessment form. This form helps focus the client on what they want from therapy and how they envisage the process. We go through this form during our first session before we set goals.
- In past my creative approach has been more cognitive, and task-oriented such as writing letters or drawing spidergrams. From supervision, I recognised that this was based on what approach was helpful to me and what I regularly use for myself. This is not necessarily useful to my clients. Finding out more about creative ways and being experiential has improved my use of creative tools, which is useful for the work that clients bring. Through reading Cathy Malchiodi’s ‘Trauma and Arts Therapy’ book, I recognised the importance of creative therapy to help clients deal with traumatic stress. This has become an integral part of my trauma work.
- Reflection has enabled me to see how the counselling process is as important in the room as well as outside of the room. I have developed an ending sheet for clients to reflect on this; they can think about how they will use the skills they have learned in the session after the counselling has finished. This helps them build their self-reliance skills after our sessions and enable them to administer self-care.
- My contract, assessment and ending sheets are available on my website. As part of my directive approach, I have developed a blog which has useful information and links for my clients. I direct my clients to this information. This has become a useful part of my psycho-education with my clients. I recognise that when clients have a better understanding of the challenges they are facing, as well as knowledge of personal coping strategies and their own inner strengths, they are better equipped to deal with their difficulties.
- I have increased my knowledge and experience of using the body for trauma. From the complex trauma training and further reading around somatic psychotherapy, I now focus more on the body and physical sensations than I did previously.