The beginning of the counselling process starts when the client first meets the counsellor, the saying “first impressions count” is absolutely true for both the client and counsellor, the client will be very nervous and unsure what is about to take place. The way the counsellor approaches the client in this infant stage is vital for the client to gain trust and has the willingness to open up in later sessions.
Some clients may just rush into what is troubling them or say nothing, in both cases the counsellor will need to be patient, observe and listen to what is being said as there will be vital information given and without understanding this it could damage your relationship. The counsellor will need discuss boundaries, this can be achieved by having an agreed Joint contract signed by both, which will show the client that each session will be approached in a professional and ethical way it will be the start of a professional relationship and a therapeutic alliance thus meaning a willingness to work together in a congruent way.
At the beginning the client will feel the power side of the relationship is with the counsellor, they will know the counsellor is professionally trained, also the counsellor will be on familiar territory if the session is at the counsellors choice of venue, but, by explaining to the client the therapeutic process they will quickly realise the counsellor is committed to shifting the power to the client thus assisting with the therapeutic alliance.
By being totally congruent from the beginning will display to the client there are no hidden agendas, the counsellor is totally transparent, non-judgemental, the counsellor has empathy towards the client and understands them. The middle The working relationship should by now be established and the client will have the confidence and willingness to explore their own feelings without feeling uncomfortable, they should also be able to understand their self-awareness.
During the “middle” stage, the counsellor should be using the core conditions which will cement a trusting relationship and will empower the client to speak freely without being judged. The middle sessions are very important as the client will be now be in the early stages of being able to self-process their feelings, the client should be able to recognise this as self-counselling. I feel this stage of the counselling process is
important because by now the client will be confident to move forward, but there will still some hesitation as they may still feel vulnerable because it will be challenging, as now they should be seeing the world in a different way they could feel freighted yet excited, all their feelings, thoughts and emotions will be reaching a conclusion. The counsellor must be congruent at all times as the client may not be prepared for the next stage and this must be shared and worked through before the ending begins.
The ending sounds very final for the client but by now they will know it’s the start of a new beginning. The clients’ feedback to the counsellor is valuable, as it will give the counsellor an indication of where they are at and if they are ready to end the relationship. The timing of the ending is generally dictated by the client, but, the responsibility of leaving in a safe place is still with the counsellor, the safety of the client will need to be discussed as they must be fully aware of what is happening and they must be comfortable with the process.
The counsellor should by now see a personality change in their client, they will be showing the wiliness to change and self-acceptance, the client will now be able to live their life in a more positive way, some of their old relationships will no longer be needed and hopefully their journey and their willingness to change will make them stronger and able to cope with their new beginnings. At this stage the counsellor will see they are no longer required and they might feel a sense of loss its essential the counsellor brings these emotions to supervision.
1. 2 Evaluate the importance of an appropriate opening of a series of sessions In my opinion the beginning of the counselling session is one of the most important stage of the process, the client will be very nervous and will not fully trust the process they are about to embark on, their unknown journey they will be nervous. The Client may hold back what they are feeling until they have gained the trust of the counsellor, and know they are safe and in a confidential environment.
Another important factor in the opening stage is to draw up a contract and discuss the content with the client, this will demonstrate it’s a working relationship and both the client and counsellor will know their barriers, it also gives structure and prevents any misunderstanding in the relationship. By having a contract it demonstrates to the client they are safe and able to speak freely also it shows the client that each session if totally confidential, there are exceptions to the rule and these will be included in the contract and what the process will be if they disclose anything that is unlawful.
Having unconditional positive regard from the beginning will display to the client there is no hidden agenda and that the counsellor is non-judgmental, this will support the client to develop the working relationship and show the client they are valued and wanted, they will start to relax to open up freely and loosen up their attitude towards the session.
1.3 Explain the purpose and importance of a working agreement for a series of sessions Having a working agreement will demonstrate to the client that the counsellor is a professional person, also that it’s a business and sessions will need funding. Clarifying to the client how they can pay for the counsellor’s time at the beginning this will show that the sessions are a working relationship. A working agreement is contract drawn up by both the client and counsellor and can be changed at any time.
There are many items that can be included in a working agreement for example:- Showing your fee within the counselling agreement will help with the awkwardness or distress of asking for money, the client may not want to willingly pay but after all it’s a business and fees do need to be paid. The counsellor may want to give the client an opportunity to pay at the beginning of each session and an option of paying the fee in several different ways i. e. monthly, by cash or direct debit this can be discussed and agreed.
Having a time boundary within the contract will provide both the client with undivided attention from the counsellor, if there was no time boundary when will you end the session? Boundaries within a working agreement are jointly owned and sticking to these boundaries is showing respect to both the client and counsellor and also it gives balance to the working relationship. Having the counsellor’s holiday times on a working agreement will reduce any misunderstandings, the client will be aware when their sessions will not take place.
I feel that it will be helpful if you also include cancelation guidelines. Confidentiality will help the client to develop and give them the confidence and willingness to open up, it will show the counsellor cares and the client is wanted, but most of all it will gain the client’s trust. If within the agreement the counsellor has mentioned that they will require regular supervision and the client will be discussed having this written down will ensure the client is fully aware of the process and the client being fully aware will help the therapeutic alliance.
The counsellor may want to include a termination notice, the notice given and boundaries that might be crossed resulting in termination, for example turning up at a counselling session under the influence of alcohol of drugs, the counsellor will terminate the session and ask the client to leave ensuring the safety of the counsellor. The following is an example of an agreement/contract taken from the counselling Bristol website, as you can see there are many things needed in a contract that will help develop a relations ship but making it clear from the beginning will encourage the relationship to grow even stronger.
Counselling agreement Counselling approach I believe that my clients have the desire and the capacity to grow towards fulfilling their true potential, and that they are the experts on their own lives. I will therefore not give you advice or offer solutions, but will work with you to help you to understand yourself more fully and to find your own inner resources. With greater self-awareness and trust in yourself, I hope that you will be able to make constructive changes, leading to a more satisfying and meaningful life.
Confidentiality Everything you share with me in the course of our work together will be treated as highly confidential. However, there are one or two limits to confidentiality, which you need to be aware of:
- In accordance with the ethical framework of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), I am required to undertake regular supervision. For this purpose, I may disclose some details of our work to my supervisor.
- I may be legally or ethically obliged to break confidentiality, for example where I consider your welfare or the welfare of others to be seriously at risk. Wherever possible, I will consult with you before breaching confidentiality. Sessions Our initial contract will run for six weeks, after which we will review the counselling process and negotiate further sessions as appropriate. Normally we will meet on a weekly basis at a regular time. Payments Payment will be taken at the beginning of each session.
This can be by cash, debit or credit card, or PayPal to [email protected] co. uk. Your fee will be………….. per session. All fees must be paid in advance of or at the beginning of the session. I have a debt recovery policy, which you can download from www. juliacrane. co. uk/documentdownloads Late cancellations Late cancellation fees are payable as follows: 0-24 hours’ notice – full session fee payable. 24-48 hours’ notice – 50% of session fee is payable. No charges are payable if more than 48 hours’ notice of cancellation is given.
Wherever possible, I will give you at least 48 hours’ notice of any change to an arranged appointment. Email / telephone contact and Social Networking Contact by email or telephone in between sessions will be limited to practical arrangements only. I will not enter into telephone or email counselling except by prior agreement. I do not accept Social Networking friend requests, as this can compromise the confidential and therapeutic nature of the counselling Relationship.
1.4 Explain the purpose and importance of reviewing progress with the client Having a review process in place will help the counsellor to understand the progress the client is making; it will provide the opportunity to give positive or negative feedback to the therapeutic relationship which will show the client they are valued and wanted. I believe that a review is of utmost importance to help grow the relationship, but it can also reveal that the client may not be suited to the process taking place, in such cases the counsellor may want to refer the client on to someone else.
The counsellor does needs to tread carefully when they review the client, as the client my think the review is a way of recording the performance instead of the quality of the alliance, the counsellor needs to congregant at all times and be non-judgement with the answers. If you include the review process within the working agreement this will reduce the surprise and stress for both the client and counsellor. A review is also good way of valuating the progress of the client to make sure the sessions are what they expected and if it’s helping them towards being a fully functioning person.
1.5 Explain the importance of working towards the ending of a series of sessions Endings are sensitive for both the client and counsellor, knowing that the working relationship is near the end can be very painful yet also very rewarding. Let’s not forget the process is for the client and having the client achieve their goal is the whole object of therapy, The client will have gone through the process of becoming a fully functioning person and will be in a better place when the ending takes place.
Most planned endings are managed by the client yet it’s still very important for the client to leave in a safe place and they understand the process. There will be times when the ending takes longer than expected and the counsellor needs to be patient and make sure the client is ready but for the client to realise they will be on their own might frighten them or they may go backwards, it’s very important to summarise to the client their development and journey they have gone through together it will again show the client that they are still important and wanted .
When preparing for the end the counsellor may want to ask if the Client has any unfinished business they want to talk about again, this will show even when the relationship is near the end the client is still valued, but they may disclose something at the very end which could hinder the ending process. Mearns and Thorne (2010:210) show how it can be approached and what the response was from the client. “The question of unfinished business, for this question to be effective it must be be asked with plenty of time left and in such a way that it is regarded as considerably more of a formality.
This question is an opportunity for the client to voice questions, uncertainness or confessions that are usually quite important to the client but which will otherwise have gone unsaid. The counsellors last therapeutic intervention, but like all the rest it is not a demand, as evidenced by one client who responded to the question in such a way as to leave the counsellor ever more in mystery; “unfinished business….. Yes….. And I think I’m going to keep it that way”
1. 6 Explain the importance of ensuring that an environment is suitable and safe. Generally Clients will be seeking a safe environment in counselling to go somewhere they feel they are able to open and be themselves its therefore important the environment is of non-personal furnishing yet not to clinical the place of each session needs to be quiet and at a comfortable temperature. Having a suitable environment will make the client feel safe it will show they are valued and wanted, it will make them calm and give the confidence to open up. Remove barriers such as desks and position chairs at slight angles and not to close, it might be good to have a box of tissues nearby the client in case they are needed.
It is also important to the both the client and counsellor are to like each other to “get on” but not as friends but as a working relationship to be congruent the counsellor must accept the client regardless of their actions and what they say. In order that client feels comfortable to talk to show their emotions and develop the relationship the counsellor will need to gain the clients trust and it is the responsibility as a professional to provide this in a safe environment to enable the client to grow to be respected, offer empathy and understanding.
- Mearns, D & Thorne B (2010) Person-Centred Counselling in Action Third Edition, Sage Publications Sample Contract/Agreement – http://www. counsellingbristol. co. uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Counselling_Contract1. pdf – accessed 28th October 2013
- Tolan, J (2011) Skills in Person-Centred Counselling & Psychotherapy First Edition, Sage Publications