In this reflective essay I will analyse the importance of communicating effectively in the counseling process, identify and describe micro skills applied in the counseling session, describe strengths and weaknesses related to these micro skills and identify areas that require self-development. I will be referred to as the counselor and the client (Ryan) will be referred to as the client.
Communication Skills and Their Importance
Being able to effectively communicate is a counselor’s most essential role. There are basic communication skills a counselor should master: Attending, which refers to giving an individual your full attention showing the client that you value what they are saying. Listening is a skill the counselor will use in order to interoperate and understand underlying messages uncovered verbally or nonverbally. Empathy, understanding the client and their concerns and by communicating this understanding the client may understand themselves more and act on these understandings. Probing, statements or questions directed from the counselor that allow clients explore relevant issues in their life. Summarizing, allows the counselor to summarize the session and point out key themes and to identify main issues the client is dealing with. Communication skills should be used in an integrative manner and a way in which benefits each individual client.
Micro Skills Applied
A crucial part to a successful relationship is creating the correct climate. The most important aspect of setting the climate is building the relationship between client and counselor. This relationship is achieved through the building of rapport, setting up the contract, good communication and listening skills, asking open and insightful questions, acceptance and reflection of feelings, and allowing the client to express their thoughts and feelings and explore difficulties. (Midwinter, 2015)
The client is 20 year old student. The client is dealing with an alcohol problem as well as feelings of anxiety and depression which emerged after the client experienced an end of a relationship which brought up the clients fear of being alone. The clients goal is to manage his mental state better that he may begin a new relationship.
As it is the clients first time in counseling the counselor begins the counseling session with creating a verbal contract with the client. The counselor begins by assuring the client that the sessions will be confidential unless the client plans to hurt themselves or others, this assures the client that no information will be disclosed with anyone unless it is to benefit the client, this also shows the client that the counseling session is a safe space. The counselor informs the client that the session will only be about half an hour, this begins the process of setting boundaries in order to help both client and counselor to have a beneficial relationship. The counselor gives the client permission to feel feelings and articulate thoughts that are difficult for the client by assuring the client that the counseling session is a safe space.
Active listening skills are demonstration that the counselor not only what the client is saying but understanding what is being said as well as showing empathy for the clients situation. Egan’s SOLAR framework is skills used to make a client feel like the counselor is actively listening. The counselor demonstrates these skills in the counseling session; this is noted by the counselor’s use of squarely facing the client throughout the counseling session, maintaining a open posture, leaning forward when appropriate, keeping good eye contact and displaying these skills in a relaxed manner.
Rogers’s person-centered model has three core conditions that should be present in the counseling relationship. The counselor is seen to display these three conditions which are: Congruence, which is the ability of the counselor to be open, genuine and real, which is displayed not only verbally but also through the use of body language. Unconditional positive regard is to be respectful and non-judgmental of the client. Empathy is the ability of the counselor to see or feel things from the client’s perspective.
With relation to the relational skills model the counselor shows evidence of the first two phases; setting up the relationship this is seen by the use of setting up a contract as well of the use of active listening and attending skills. Developing the relationship, is evident by the counselor listening to the client and identifying potential issues, by questing around what the client is saying. Skills that important to developing the relationship is paraphrasing, summarizing, identifying and reflecting of problems and asking questions.
Paraphrasing is evident in the session when the counselor confirms what the client is saying in order to show the client that you have understood what the client has said and help the client reflect on what they have said.
Strengths and weaknesses
The first strength demonstrated by the counselor was the setting up of a contract, including confidentiality, time boundaries and assuring the client that the counseling session is a safe space for the client to talk; setting up the contract shows the client that the counseling relationship is of a professional nature as well as gives the client a guideline for the counseling session.
The counselor adopted a relaxed and open body posture which conveys the message of receptiveness to the client; the counselor maintained appropriate eye contact throughout the session showing the counselors attentiveness to the client; The use of facial expressions displayed by the counselor were appropriate and conveys the counselors understanding of the client; the counselor shows use of appropriate gestures such as nodding of the head indicating to the client that the counselor is following and understanding them and are encouraged to continue sharing; these strengths are skills related to non-verbal communication.
The counselor is seen to track the client’s thoughts instead of leading them, by reflecting back to the client to explore main themes or issues presented in the session. The counselor asks relevant questions related to what the client is saying, the main type of questioning used by the counselor are open questions, this allows clients to further explore thoughts or feelings.
The counselor displays the three core conditions set out in Roger’s person-centered model, the counselor shows congruence, the ability to show genuineness; unconditional positive regard, the counselor was non-judgmental and responded respectfully to the client; The counselor was empathetic of the clients issues and showed this to the client through understanding and acceptance.
The counselor a few times is shown to second-guess the client by predicting what the client will say next and completing their sentence for them. The counselor must remember to allow the client to finish speaking before commenting as the counselor should be tracking the client instead of leading.
The counselor is seen to be planning what to say next at a few points in the counseling session; this is seen through the “uhm’s” indicating to the client that the counselor was possibly not interested or paying attention to what they are saying. The counselor needs to stay focused on and track what the client is saying.
The counselor displayed the use of filtering, by ignoring some key points that the client was saying and is shown to even changing the topic of the current subject, this shows the counselor leading instead of tracking the client.
There was one point in the counseling session that the counselor forgot where she was and had to ask the client, this was incredibly unprofessional as it conveys to the client the counselor is distracted and not paying the needed attention towards them.
At the end of the session the counselor did not summarize the session and identify areas to work with but ended the session quickly and promptly, this most likely portrayed an eagerness to get rid of the client, which may discourage the client from returning.
Areas that Require Self-Development
The largest area the counselor has to improve on is the counselor’s nervousness; this is shown by the counselor rushing through questions and overall physical appearance such as shaking, sweating and flushed complexion. Although the counselor relaxes as the session continues the client’s first impression of the counselor was that the counselor was nervous. The counselor needs to practice relaxing and slowing down in order to improve the counseling environment. This nervousness also hindered the counseling process as the counselor lost track of the conversation or changed the subject and missed important information in the counseling session.
The counselor also needs to improve on the questioning skills used in the interview; many questions were irrelevant or did not track with the client’s story. The counselor should not ask questions to satisfy one’s curiosity but rather ask questions that allow clients to reflect on what they have said themselves.
The counselor did many things right, such as active listening and non-verbal communication but still has a lot to work on to create a better counseling experience for the client. The counselor has to overcome certain aspects such as nerves when entering the counseling environment, through self development in order to improve oneself as a counselor.