This week we looked at more aspects of personal development, such as personal growth and how we feel about our developing counselling skills, as well as how we feel about giving feedback.
Looking back on at my own journey on the course since September I have definitely learned a great deal about counselling and the various skills used therein. I wrote near the start of the course that I got the impression people often approached me with their problems as they thought I was a good listener, but I always felt bad because I never knew what advice to give to solve their problems. Listening to people talk has never been a problem for me as I enjoy listening to their stories, their problems, and their lives. I used to get confused and anxious when it got to “my part”, as I was never sure what to vocalise or how. I absolutely knew that I did not like turning it around and talking about myself after someone had opened up to me about their issues. I feel that is a very insensitive thing to do – I don’t like it when people do that to me and I am self-aware enough to realise that other people probably don’t like it either. Thanks to taking this course, it turns out that I don’t have to give great advice or have some miraculous insight into someone’s problems. That I listen freely without prejudice, ask open-ended questions, reflect the speaker’s emotional state back to them, and offer them a feeling of confidentiality is enough. Allowing them to be heard and understood is often enough. The relief of getting the thoughts out of their head can often be enough. Having their emotions and feelings reflected back at them can often lead to them discovering their own insight, or reaching a conclusion themselves without me having to intervene and offer up my own take.
I also feel I have also learned a great deal about myself, gained a lot of self-esteem, and the confidence I have in several areas of my life has grown exponentially. I feel justified in choosing to pursue a career in counselling as it has reinforced my desire to learn more about people, human behaviour and the nature of being. I am using the skills I have learned on the course in my day-to-day life to be a more understanding person, and combined with my naturally calm and composed demeanour, my inquisitive nature and my unquenchable thirst for knowledge I feel I am well on my way to fulfilling my mission on this planet, which is to encourage and assist other people in becoming the very best versions of themselves they can be. Also because of the knowledge gained about myself I am more relaxed in most of my interpersonal relationships, and have realised the importance of being more present as a father to my son.
I feel like I have made unmeasurable progress as someone interested in becoming a counsellor. When I first started the course, it was a dream, an aspiration, a simple idea that one day I could maybe, possibly, be a counsellor and help others. I fully expected myself to somehow leave the course and not complete it. I expected the lazy part of myself to sabotage the course somehow so it could remain in its comfort zone. Thankfully, I was strong, and that never happened. In addition, I have been reading the key works of a lot of important figures from the realm of counselling, psychology and philosophy, such as Carl Rogers, Frederick Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, Eric Berne, Alfred Adler, Abraham Maslow, and I am currently listening to the audiobook version of the autobiography of Carl Jung, which is fascinating.
In terms of areas that I feel I could be developed further, I think it is roleplays. The key part of counselling as a job is the interaction with the person you are helping – and having all the theoretical knowledge of “how to be a counsellor” there is to know would be irrelevant if you had no experience of using it in a helping relationship with another person, even if it is “just roleplay”. Similarly, if you were not confident enough to talk someone who is initially a stranger to you about their personal issues, you would not make it very far – roleplays help with this fear. You just have to get on and talk to people. In my regular job as a sales assistant in retail I do encounter a lot of people on a day to day basis, and as I have written before, I often use the skills I have learned on the course in interactions with customers and colleagues at work. Sometimes they are receptive to my warmth and they open up, and I hope they feel a little better about themselves having got something off their chest or out of their heads. I enjoy easing their problems, and as an added benefit it also hones my counselling skills.
Reflections on Feedback
I think, when it comes to giving feedback to the other students on the course after doing a roleplay that I don’t see myself as enough of an authority on counselling skills to give negative feedback; I know that the other students on the course have exactly as much experience with using the skills as I do, so I don’t feel it is my place to criticise their use of them. This is common in other areas of my life as well though, in that I don’t like telling other people what to do, so I know it is something I need to think about, and retune in my mind. I think in future, especially if I do progress on to Level 3, I will have to be more ruthless in my feedback and highlight not only the good but also the bad, by making good use of the feedback sandwich (A feedback sandwich is a piece of feedback which is made up of positive observations at the beginning and end, with constructive negative feedback “sandwiched” in the middle, hence the name). Personally, I try to not feel offended if someone criticises something I do, but instead use it as a learning experience, so I will develop greater tact and endeavour to be constructive even in my negative feedback of others.