This paper investigates literature available on theories of counseling. It defines counseling and expounds on the essential features of a beneficial relationship. It also elucidates on various theories of counseling and instances where they apply. To this extent, the paper considers practical examples and how they can help in understanding of the theories. According to the pertinent literature, the study of the theories of counseling provides a strong foundation for understanding various facets of scientific research and critical evaluation. These help in accessing people’s situations, understanding them well and using knowledge to advise them on how to cope up. Counseling is fast gaining popularity as an alternative therapy to most of the current ailments. For example, persons with terminal ailments can best be managed through counseling and psychological support compared to any forms of therapy.
Theory of Counseling
Counseling is defined as the act of two persons sharing their ideas. Ideally, the two people must have mutual trust as this is critical in determining what amount of information they can share. It is slightly different from a consultation because, unlike counseling, the former can take place between any two persons.
Counseling has become a commonplace practice in psychology and medical practice. This is attributed to the emergence of disease conditions whose definite treatments are yet to be known. In some instances, patients may be too worried about their conditions to the extent that it compromises their general immunity. It should be noted that stressful situations lead to depressed immunity, and this may make it hard for diseases to heal. It is this reality that has made counseling a popular thing today.
The other area where counseling has proved to be necessary is relationships. According to the scholarly literature, there is not relationship that can grow from scratches and flourish without problems. And when problems occur, people should be counseled to stay strong and weather the storm. For example, the concerned persons should be reminded that trust is fundamental in any relationship. When trust is lost, the relationship is as good as lost. In addition, helpful relationships are those whose purpose is known to both parties. For example, each party should be aware of what he or she starts to gain or lose in the relationship. These are fundamental features of a helpful relationship that should never be ignored.
The initial stage of counseling a new client is creation of an environment of mutual comfort. It essentially means trying to make friends with a total stranger because most clients are people one will be meeting for the first time. According to literature, this “friendship” can easily be achieved through honest interaction with the client. For example, it is at this point that one will have to convince the client that any information discussed between them will not be shared with someone else. It therefore follows that the counselor should take the opportunity to ask the client some personal questions. However, these should not be leading questions as the client may begin to feel that he or she is being set up. For example, questions bordering on what foods one eats on special occasions would suffice to create a serene environment for a beneficial discussion. Thereafter, the client should clearly know why he will be being made to discuss personal issues later in the discussion. In short, it implies letting the client know the purpose of the counseling session and how he or she is supposed to benefit from it (Gerald, 2009).
Theories of Counseling
Client centered or Rogerian theory of counseling will definitively fit into my line of work. In this type of counseling, a counselor provides his/her client with a free environment that will enable social growth. It is quite essential that the counselor appears genuinely non-judgmental as this will make the client most comfortable. According to the academic literature, clients get irritated when they seem to be opening up while the counselor is not. They expect to see some bit of mutual comfort so that they may reveal some crucial information. Essentially, they want to be assured that their situation is not unique and that other people have undergone the same and came out unscathed. This amount of assurance is only possible when the counselor does not only appear to be listening to the client’s story, but also seem to be personally touched with it. In fact, a look of unconditional positive regard is enough to win the client’s trust and to make him comfortable. It is termed client-centered because the counselor, for a moment, is required to put his or herself in the client’s shoes and reason from that perspective. This is the only way rational judgments about the situation can be made and a way of comforting the client promptly formulated.
Another theory that has richly been applied is known as the holistic health theory. This theory looks at the client from all spheres of life. This appreciates that apart from the client’s immediate environment or the situations he or she deems stressful, there can be found manifold other factors that significantly affect the client’s life. Thus, the counselor will need to ask the client if there is any aspect of his or her life that seems neglected to the extent of causing the stressful situation. According to the literature, spiritual need, if not properly taken care of, has the potential of causing social discomfort. In addition, intellectual challenges like persistent failure in examinations may cause stress. In this regard, socio-economic issues have been found to cause lots of social discomfort to the extent that people are not able to withstand. For example, a Christian can easily stomach the fact that he or she cannot go to church because there is none around. However, this may not be tolerable to a parent who cannot afford clothing or food for a family that is growing impatient. The holistic theory critically looks at any situations that are likely to demean the client’s social well-being and uses this knowledge to propose viable solutions.
Solution-focused theory starts with a solution to the client’s problem in mind rather than the problem itself. It seeks to establish what the client expects from his or her session with the counselor right from the beginning. This will perfectly enable the counselor to satisfy the client’s needs by striking the nail right on the head. For example, when a client has a problem with the family, the focus becomes on what life will probably be without the problem in sight. It does not instead seek to establish how things got how they are. This method has proved successful because the client never gets to feel uncomfortable with the counselor. The feeling of discomfort usually arises when the client is asked too many questions that are personal in nature as the counselor tries to establish the root cause of the problem. In this theory, all these are immaterial and do not help in helping the client.
Also important is the existential theory of counseling that seeks to assure the client that he or she exists for a particular purpose and that sideshows should not bother him or her. It particularly seeks to re-establish the client’s identity and appreciate it the way it is. It is basically an assurance that no matter what happens to one’s life, one should not lose the bigger focus which is a comfortable and meaningful life. For example, a young lady who has been dumped by her boyfriend may not really be interested in knowing how she will get another boyfriend. However, she needs to be reminded that she existed before that particular relation and that her life should equally remain meaningful after the relationship. In addition, she should be shown that several people have experienced the feeling, but lived a more comfortable life when they accepted the situation and moved on with their lives (Gold, 2010).
There is also the strength-based theory of counseling that is purely hinged on past experiences. Instead of the troubling things about the client’s life, the counselor drifts his or her thoughts into things more positive. For example, the client can be reminded of the good things he or she achieved in the past and how overwhelming they seemed initially. This has been proven to be sufficiently motivating to most people who were about to give up trying. For example, when a student persistently fails in class work till he or she begins to feel inadequately intelligent, their morale can be significantly boosted by simply reminding them of the past successes. If he or she was able to pass all exams in the past and get to the current levels, there shouldn’t be any reason to give up. It basically aims at assuring the client that all will be well despite the seemingly overwhelming adversities. According to the available literature, humans draw more strength from their personal achievements than from other people’s achievements.
On the other hand, there is the cognitive function theory of counseling that focuses on addressing social and emotional dysfunctions. It has proved to provide adequate therapy for moods and anxiety disorders, especially in adults. According to the literature, this theory emphasizes that mental states hold sway to the relationship between social stimuli and consequential responses. Thus, while interpreting why clients responded to their situation the way they did, it is equally important to know what their mental situations were at the moment. This will prevent prejudgments that are likely to hinder close relationship between the two parties. Essentially, some problems are best solved by taking into consideration all associated situations. This is highly emphasized by the cognitive behavior theorists.
Techniques of Counseling
Relaxation technique has been lauded as one of the most effective techniques in counseling. It helps to create a serene environment for the actual session of counseling. According to the academic literature, effective counseling can only take place where the two parties are properly relaxed and comfortable with each other. It is this understanding that has led to the proposal that one should be counseled by a person of their age group because they are more likely to understand one another. In addition, studies have found that most people never get the level of threshold required for an ideal counseling session with persons older than themselves. Better still; a person who has undergone the same situation and got out of it unscathed would make a perfect counselor. For example, a young lady who is troubled with a new twist of her sexual orientation would definitely need counsel from an individual who has been bisexual in the past. This will make her quite very comfortable knowing too well that the counselor fully understands her situation. Similarly, a man in a troubled marriage would best be counseled by another man who has survived a divorce or separation. Ideally, the client needs to be assured that his or her situation is not unique and that the difficult situation is just but a passing cloud.
The technique of psychoanalysis also comes handy quite often. In this technique, the counselor needs to look at the client critically as the client narrates the ordeal. It relieves the client the burden of having to mention every bit of the situation, some of which may be too emotive. For example, the counselor may have to use his or her analytical techniques to make certain conclusions, especially if the client doesn’t look comfortable discussing it. A typical example is a case of rape by a close family member. While the counselor may be too willing to discuss it with the client, it should be understood that the client will have to conceal some bits, ostensibly to protect the name of the family. In this case, the counselor should not be seen to be pushing the client beyond limits that he or she considers acceptable (Sommers-Flanagan & Sommers-Flanagan, 2012).
My humble background would definitely make me an ideal counselor because I have faced several challenges in my life. I believe that my life as an orphan without close relatives to look up to gives me the impetus to accept life the way it is and appreciate that life is indeed imperfect. For example, when a client comes complaining about a spouse who no longer seems interested in their relationship I will act in haste considering that I understand how devastating is to feel unappreciated by people one loves. Similarly, when a person who has lost his or her job complains of depression, I will be in the best position to understand this because I know what it means for parents to be unable to cater for their families. This inside feeling has been found to enhance counseling outcomes in most clients. In addition, I believe that someone who has faced difficulties in life will resist any temptations to judge another person who is faced with similar problems. This convinces me that I will always cut a figure that all clients will be comfortable discussing any matters with.
Although brought up in a humble environment, I have lately been able to move up the social ladder. My new life has few problems, especially those socio-economic in nature. Indeed, I have grown up to believe that issues of love by family members are merely cosmetic issues and that real problems are the grave ones that threaten people’s means of survival. For example, I would be tempted to dismiss a patient who comes with a problem of his or her pet as minor and not worth the attention. While this may be true for my life, the client may consider it quite overwhelming. In short, I believe that I risk neglecting some people’s problems simply because I have experienced greater problems in my short life.
The other problem that would hinder my association with clients is the fear for elderly persons. Though I have never been able to know why, I find it very hard relating with older persons. For example, I am quite certain that I will not be able to discuss matters of sex with persons of my parents’ age mates. This will significantly reduce the number of clients I can attend to as I will be limited to younger persons. Even in school, I find it quite a challenge to consult my lecturers because I seem to have some inborn fear for older people. In addition, the fact that I have never been in a relationship will imply that I will only be able to discuss marital matters with my clients. According to literature, the person who is best suited to offer advice or counsel is the one who has had experience with similar situations and therefore, understands it better (Neukrug, 2011). I don’t consider myself experienced with or interested in relationships at all. My listening skills are a bit low and this is likely to affect my level of concentration as I attend to a client. It is common knowledge that any person will feel extremely bad when the person he or she is supposed to discuss a problem with looks distracted and uninterested. While I may try not to show it, I believe that it will emerge at some point and the client will be able to realize. This will significantly affect my moral and professional standing as a counselor able to give life’s advice.
In conclusion, the study of the theories of counseling provides a strong foundation for understanding various facets of scientific research and critical evaluation. Thus, it helps in accessing people’s situations, understanding them well and using acquired knowledge to advise them on how to cope up with the situations. For example, persons with terminal ailments can best be managed through counseling and psychological support compared to any form of therapy. Thus, it is important that the best persons should be given the role of counselors as this will ensure high quality of services offered to the clients. In addition, it will ensure that any matter discussed between a counselor and clients is not revealed to a third party.