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Characteristics of an Effective Counselor
Effective counseling calls for one to have a number of characteristics that are founded on one’s personality. Patience and calmness are some of the desirable characteristics for one to be a good counselor.
More often than not, counselors deal with people who are mentally and emotionally distressed. Patience, therefore, puts the counselors in the best position to tolerate all kinds of behaviors that may be portrayed by the clients.
Without patience, it is difficult to put up with the behaviors and propel the clients towards the stages of recovery. Moreover, patience enables the counselor to establish and sustain relationships with clients successfully.
It may take too long for some clients to establish trust in the counselors. It implies that the counselors must always be ready to bear with such clients to be able to help them to achieve the goals and objectives of counseling (Palmo, Weikel & Borsos, 2006).
I have a lot of empathy towards others, besides being a good listener. During training, I have to pay a lot of attention to instructions on the subject of empathy because it is one of the most misused personal characteristics in intense counseling situations.
Empathy is used within certain limits in counseling to maintain objectivity. It is important for me to understand the limits within which I am required to show empathy towards the clients.
I have to know how I can avoid the tendencies of being too empathetic because this might result in personalization and transference of emotions and feelings in counseling sessions.
This can create difficulties in attaining the goals of counseling. Therefore, gaining skills on how to control empathy in counseling is critical in helping me deal with emotional situations in counseling (Greason, & Cashwell, 2009).
Comprehending my defense mechanisms
Repression is one of the main ego defense mechanisms that are often used unconsciously. It is critical for the counselor to detect the tendencies of repression among clients during counseling sessions.
The counselor has to think about the underlying issues in the cases that are presented by the clients when the client seems to be defensive. It calls for careful listening to be able to identify errors in the client’s statements and any other signal that the client may portray consciously or unconsciously.
The best way to deal with repression is to dig into the past experiences. It is important to listen to critical symbols to avoid misinterpretation (Sharf, 2012).
Regression is another defense mechanism that is common in counseling. It entails acting in a silly or childish way when a person goes through trauma.
Such characters can easily escalate some forms of weird behaviour. Sharf (2012) observes that there are two main ways of dealing with people who portray regression.
First of all, the counsellor can adopt the nurturing role by taking the position of authority over the client. The principle of authority should be used relatively, failure to which the client might develop opposition. The other way of dealing with regression is identifying with the behaviour.
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Identifying with the behavior encourages trust and eases the ability to read the mind of the client and make the right diagnosis.
Rationalization is also widely used in counseling. More often than not, people tend to offer explanations that back their actions or observations. This defense mechanism is vital in persuading clients as a counselor.
There is a need for the counselor to be logical and provide explanations and arguments that are convincing. Convincing arguments are important in persuading the clients to change their positions.
It is important to focus on the substance in the arguments presented by the clients to counter the arguments convincingly (Sharf, 2012).
Current Fears, Worries, Concerns about being a Counselor
One of my greatest fears in the counseling career is failing to meet the expectations of the clients and failure to properly diagnose clients’ problems and lead them into recovery. Failing to diagnose a client properly has a lot of implications.
One of the implications is that the mental health problem of the client can escalate, leading to personal harm or developing into complex mental health conditions. There is a need for proper use of questioning and engaging the client in decision making to ensure that a proper diagnosis is made.
Mental counseling is a career that entails dealing directly with people’s mental problems in a bid to help stabilize their feelings and emotions.
Therefore, one of my greatest fears in this career is that there are high chances of being preoccupied with other people’s problems to an extent that these problems may end up affecting my mental health.
The more a counselor engages with clients, the more the counselor is likely to have a collection of different emotional accounts in his head.
In case some of the experiences of the clients link directly to the personal experiences of the counselor, then the counselor is bound to be taken over by emotions even though he might not show physically.
As a counselor, I will need to be focused on solving the mental problems affecting the clients by way of empathizing with the clients and avoiding personalizing their problems.
For cases that relate to my personal experience and emotions, I can choose to refer such cases to my colleagues instead of dealing handling them. I will also embrace post counseling debriefing as a way of dealing with the emotions and thoughts that may arise from handling clients.
Areas of growth as a mental health counsellor
I will have to correct a number of things for me to fully conduct my duties as a mental counselor. First of all is the issue of experience. Experience is one of the desirable tools in counseling.
It becomes easy to draw conclusions on the current cases and make rational and informed diagnoses from past cases handled by the counselor.
Therefore, I will seek for internships in busy counseling environments like hospitals, clinics, and exercise counseling at the community level to gather experience in the field.
The other ways of gaining experience are searching and reading through critical cases in counselling and focusing on the complex parts of the cases and how diagnoses were developed. Moreover, I will engage counselors who have been in the field for a long time.
The other critical thing in preparing to become a counselor is putting oneself in the right mental position to conduct counseling. I will search through my life and determine the most emotional situations that I have undergone.
Such situations and experiences, if not addressed, live in the mind and can be major impediments to conducting counseling sessions in an objective and calm way.
The situations are also likely to recur in the cases that I will be dealing with as a counselor, thereby resulting in personalization of client’s problems through the arousal of my emotions.
If possible, I will seek for counseling to help clear up the experiences that might cause repression on my side as a counselor.
This way, I will easily detach myself from the problems that are exhibited by my clients in counselling. This will help me maintain objectivity in counseling (Greason & Cashwell, 2009).
Greason, P. B., & Cashwell, C. S. (2009). Mindfulness and counseling self-efficacy: the mediating role of attention and empathy. Counselor Education and Supervision, 49(1), 2-19. DOI: 10.1002/j.1556-6978.2009.tb00083.x
Palmo, A. J., Weikel, W. J., & Borsos, D. P. (2006). Foundations of mental health counseling. Springfield, IL: Charles C Thomas.
Sharf, R. S. (2012). Theories of psychotherapy and counseling: Concepts and cases. Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.