A Rationale for Personal Development Within Counselling

January 16, 2017 Music

Self development and self awareness are important elements in counsellor training because these processes, which are often difficult and painful, enable the trainee to understand themselves more fully. In the course of attending to our own needs in such a way as to increase our ability to be with our clients in a way that is not only safe for both parties but which incrementally improves our effectiveness (Mearns 1999).

The BACP ethical framework, outlines six ethical principles which govern counselling practice and eleven personal moral qualities which counsellors are strongly encouraged to aspire towards. The ethical framework incorporates a number of references to self development and its importance to good practice. Embodied within the terms ???competence???, ???fitness to practise??? and self-respect???, self-care and self development is both an explicit demand and a responsibility of all counsellors (BACP, 2007).

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The self is the counsellors principle tool and it is therefore incumbent on the counsellor to develop and maintain the self. Within self development self care of the mind, body and spirit are essential. Risks of burnout and impairment are high for counsellors (Lambie, 2006). Lambie states ???Burnout is a form of impairment that affects all aspects of a counsellor??™s functioning, not just his or her professional abilities??? (Lambie, p.32, 2006). Implementing and maintaining a personalised self-care plan is essential. Care for self can be conceptualised as practices we use to renew and energise ourselves. Indeed, Skovholt (2001) suggests, that self care is the process by which we continually replenish sources that sustain us. Self care practices for the mind could be knowing your limits, counselling, self hypnosis, social support, music/books, lectures, companionship, holiday/relaxation, satisfying work/hobbies, intellectual growth and challenge, laughter.

Suggestions for self care for the body could include a healthy diet, proper sleep, vitamins and supplements, good hygiene, dental care, aerobic activity, strength training in yoga, Pilates and tai chi, massage and aromatherapy. Self care for the spirit could include giving to others/charity, time in nature, prayer/worship,
music dance and art, dream work, relaxation, meditation/centreing, experience or give love, learning about other religions and cultures, connecting with your purpose.

The BACP also highlights the requirement for ongoing self development. As Mcleod (1993) confirms, it is essential to recognise that self development is considered necessary not just for the benefit of counsellors but also their clients. Wallace states that, ???personal development can be defined in terms of self awareness and change??? (Wallace, 1996 p76) and Johns states that these changes will ???influence the whole person??? (Johns, 1996 p40). The trainee counsellor needs to recognise that unless they are able to get in touch with their own personal feelings through training, then they will be unable to understand the wide range of emotions experienced by clients and may even confuse their own feelings (termed transference) with those of the client (Wilkins 1997).

Wilkins (1997) suggests that to be an effective counsellor we need to be complete and ???real???. He goes on to argue, however, that the purpose of personal development is not to make us perfect but ???good enough???. The more students can connect with the personal development element of training courses, through personal counselling and personal development groups, the more self aware they become. This not only helps facilitate students understanding, recognition and awareness of their own personality, thoughts, feelings, behaviours and attitudes (culturally and personally) to others but facilitates the student being able to monitor themselves and their work with clients (Roach and Young, 2007 pp 29-45).

Wilkins (1997) implies identification and understanding of personal prejudices and blind spots during peer counselling is another important aspect of self awareness, which can he argues, be particularly difficult, especially at the
beginning of training. Wilkins (1997) goes on to suggest that this is because most people tend to ignore or overlook their short comings, and in fact most fervently held attitudes are unquestioned anyway.

Nevertheless, Wilkins (1997) argues that without acknowledgement of these, true humility and unpretentiousness are not possible and there is a danger that feelings of self-importance will flaw any future relationships with clients. Issues relating to the way trainee counsellors make moral judgements about other people and their worth also need to be discussed and recognised, and attitudes of unprejudiced objectivity fostered (Dryden 2008).

There are various ways in which counsellors can be encouraged to engage in self-examination. One of the principle aids to self-awareness in counsellor training is keeping a written record of progress via a journal diary to measure self-development gained. Kottler (1986) states ???In the role of confidant to others, a structure must be created for the therapist to become a confidant to himself??? (p.35). He suggested systematic journal writing is a way to supervise oneself and work through difficulties with particular cases, while also being a method of self??“analysis. The journal can be seen as a vehicle for developing and recording ideas and significant events. Journaling has been shown to relieve emotional distress (Pennebaker, 1990).

Supervision, personal therapy and co-counselling with peers are seen as other aids to self-development. This encourages the student to practice the counselling skills necessary, gaining interesting and informative experiences and subsequent exposure to the wide spectrum of ideas and accounts of personal experience generated by the group. Including the following: contracting,(making clear specific arrangements); relating to each other as peers; how to celebrate and
consolidate your strengths; how to rectify deficiencies of skill, knowledge and experience; how to discharge painful distress emotions; how to take more charge of your life; reciprocity, equal giving and receiving; understand your self and others better; gaining self awareness and insight; explore, manage and understand difficult feelings and emotions; find support in working out difficult choices; dilemmas and problems; celebrate strengths and correct deficiencies; about the basic human potentials for love, understanding and choice; training in assertiveness skills; development of skills of critical thinking; feedback from peer group. The trainee counsellor among other things needs a good knowledge of the theories in growth and development so that they are able to explore and define how the key features of their upbringing affect their present life.

For the purpose of the assignment, I am required to consider counsellor training in relation to two theories in human growth and development. The person centred theory of personality put forward by Carl Rogers and Freud??™s psychoanalytic personality theory necessitates deliberation.

Rodgers refers to conditions of worth inherent from childhood that creates unhealthy self concepts (values/conditions caused by external relationships) that prevent individuals from living as a fully functioning persons. Instead they adopt behaviours aimed at obtaining love and acceptance (Rogers 1989, pp.249-250).
The features of Rogers theory around conditions of worth and interjected values needs close examination by the trainee counsellor in respect of any externally based values and beliefs they may possess. Examples of a person??™s personality trait which may be based on introjected values could be that of a fear of intimacy. A counsellor should be a well-balanced congruent person who needs to welcome intimacy with their client. However if they are afraid of intimacy, they will create distances which would affect the counselling relationship.

A controlling nature could be another condition of worth. In a counselling relationship there is a lot of scope for misuse or abuse of power. The counsellor must avoid the trap of using their position and skills to try to control and dominate the client. The counsellor may have interjected values which create blocks to empathy these include prejudices and beliefs and could have an impact on their ability to empathise with the client. There are numerous conditions of worth and introjected values that the trainee counsellor needs to be aware of lest they inhibit the therapeutic relationship. Key areas for self-awareness include our personality traits, personal values, beliefs, habits, prejudices, emotions, and the psychological needs that drive our behaviours (Nelson-Jones, 1993).
Freud??™s psychoanalytic theory assumes that the core of personality is conflict springing from a basic pleasure seeking energy call the libido. A key idea in Freud??™s theory of personality is that all humans??™ posses a basic energy called the libido that is directed at satisfying needs, maximizing pleasure, and minimizing pain. Many of the acts that bring pleasure, however, cause conflict as well, which Freud saw as the core of personality. When conflict occurs, the mind first responds by an increase in problem-solving thinking, seeking rational ways of escaping the situation. If this is not fruitful, a range of defence mechanisms may be triggered. In Freuds language, these are tactics which the Ego develops to help deal with the Id and the Super Ego. (Dryden, 2007).
Defence Mechanisms often appear unconsciously and tend to distort, transform, or otherwise falsify reality. In distorting reality, there is a change in perception which allows for a lessening of anxiety, with a corresponding reduction in felt tension. The student would need to gain more understanding and awareness of their defence mechanisms by identifying the hidden or unconscious factors, which are influencing their behaviour. The therapeutic relationship could be in jeopardy if certain defence mechanisms were in evidence. Denial being one, this is claiming/believing that what is true to be actually false or rationalisation which creates false but credible justifications. Reaction Formation, is another defence which initiates the person overacting in the opposite way to the fear. Regression, can be seen as going back to acting as a child or repression, pushing uncomfortable thoughts into the subconscious. (Nelson-Jones, 1993).

Supervision, self counselling and/or personal counselling, in respect of the trainees own defence mechanisms would promote the development of self awareness. Having a strong awareness of the Self, means that you have acknowledged and accepted parts of you and your behaviour which usually remains private. This may include deep-seated issues and unacceptable behaviour patterns, which will have to be probed and explored through self-counselling if positive changes are to be made. Being aware of personal limitations will also help an individual cope with the challenges that counselling will present. Identifying personal needs, through self-counselling, will enable an individual to develop a higher degree of self-awareness. Through personal development positive changes can be made that will improve the emotional health of an individual. Being self-aware will enable the individual to strive for continued improvement in many areas of their life, whilst strengthening good points and addressing unacceptable behaviour or reactions. On the whole, developing self-awareness creates a better understanding of who you really are.


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