In the counselling relationship you can expect:
- A process that occurs when a client and counsellor set aside time to explore difficulties which may include the stressful or emotional feelings of the client.
- The act of helping the client to see things more clearly, possibly from a different view-point. This can enable the client to focus on feelings, experiences or behaviour, with a goal of facilitating positive change.
- A relationship of trust. Confidentiality is paramount to successful counselling. Professional counsellors will usually explain their policy on confidentiality. They may, however, be required by law to disclose information if they believe that there is a risk to life.
- There are a number of skills that are required by counsellors. Perhaps the most important are good communication skills. Counsellors need to be particularly able to listen effectively, giving their full attention to the client. They need to be aware of body language and other non verbal communication. Clients will often communicate far more non-verbally than verbally, so this is an important area of skill.
- Questioning is an important skill for counsellors, just as it is in coaching. Counsellors use questioning both to improve their understanding (as a form of clarification), and also as an active way to help expose the client’s feelings and emotions. They will also use reflection to show that they have heard the client, and to validate the client’s feelings and words.
- They also need to be empathetic. This means that they are aware of their client’s feelings and emotions. Empathy goes beyond being sympathetic (which is basically feeling sorry for someone), because the root of the word means to ‘feel with’. Empathy therefore means that the counsellor understands how the clients feels and can therefore ask appropriate questions and lead the client to positive conclusions. The nature of empathy is rooted in helping others, and particularly in empowering them to help themselves, so this is an essential skill area for counsellors.