‘It’s what I wished was around when I was training to be a therapeutic counsellor.’
Dear trainee counsellor and trainer, counsellor and self-counsellor: I’m sharing my experience of ‘Ah, this is what to focus on when working with a client.’ I’m offering you my tacit knowledge of counselling in 2 new resources; free of charge whilst we redevelop our website and complete additional content!
Quick Starts for Counsellors is a resource after my own heart: Short settings with a client to get trainee counsellors going. I’ve written them to give a taste of walking around in a counsellor’s shoes, useful for stimulating discussion.
The main body of work is a set of 50 Counselling Tasks based on the following skill areas: Listening, Exploring, Understanding, Facing Change, Moving On. Work your way through them and I hope something I call ‘Ping’ happens in your head as it did for me. Each skill is vital both in itself, and in conjunction with the others. I’ve separated them to offer practice in refining your own skills, one at a time.
I’ve selected the most helpful approaches and condensed them into my approach. I’ve laid out 5 skill areas I found most useful in my practice. In a typical counselling session, all five skills might be used.
Knowing how to use these counselling skills is important, but the therapeutic process is deepened by the quality of the relationship between client and therapist, with all the skills fully integrated into the process. The quality of the relationship builds trust and confidence between client and counsellor.
Integral to each task is the use of writing. We promote writing things down as maybe the 6th skill and suggest how to kick the writing process off and how to keep it going. To find out more, see ‘Running Away’, a journal written as part of therapeutic training.
Writing things down
‘One thing I found important was writing things down – my thoughts, my feelings, my perceptions and, during my own journey to be a counsellor, even my daily life.
‘My experience of therapeutic writing enriched my training as a counsellor. I didn’t take the straightforward narrative route but used the device of a third person to help me, I named him Max. My words grew into his story, 15 months of his life.
‘By looking at my ‘double’ over time, I began to see myself emerge as a person in my own right. Max was very useful on that journey to becoming a counsellor; I learnt more about how counselling and learning to be human went hand in hand.’ Arnfrid Beier
However slowly – Writing as part of the narrative of your life
Why we believe in therapeutic writing.
Being able to put your life down as a narrative makes the influences and experiences that have shaped you more evident.
Writing a first-hand account lets you explore your individual experiences and reflect on them then and at later stages.
Writing can offer a careful contextualisation of changes that you have experienced in your life and also in the counselling process.
Writing as part of counselling gives you a chance to come to terms, however slowly, with your past.
When you write alongside your client it deepens your relationship, by building confidence in ‘doing’ and through sharing common ground.
‘Running Away’ can be read as an example of therapeutic writing. Thoughts, feelings, events, illusions, voices pour into Max’s life and he writes them down as a diary extending over 15 months.
He seems unable to control his life, things happen to him in a random way, but through the bewilderment emerges a person. He sinks under the weight of his life yet rises again and again.
Writing his life down as a set of experiences that often feel random to Max enables him to take control. This is an insight into how he learns to cope and an illustration of how we all learn through the process of exploration and understanding.
‘Running away’ is also a useful example of a journal produced under the conditions of training to be a counsellor. Excerpts can be used to stimulate discussion and as a starting point for journaling.
I have written a set of exercises to accompany ‘Running Away’. For each chapter there is a series of questions, an imaginary dialogue with Max as your client and some Top Tips. Through this I hope to deepen and enrich your experience of ‘Running Away’.