007 – Therapeutic Pace – Phenomenology – Skill of Questioning – BACP-Accredited Courses
In this seventh episode of the Counselling Tutor Podcast, Ken Kelly and Rory Lees-Oakes discuss how to manage client expectations about therapeutic pace, and your reaction to these. Rory looks at the theory of phenomenology, while ‘Skills with Ken’ examines questioning. Finally, the presenters explain about course accreditation by the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP).
Managing Clients’ Expectations
How do we deal with the challenge of some clients’ desire for fast results? Rory and Ken discuss the pace of therapy, and the importance of patience in counselling. John Shlien, one of Carl Rogers’ students, used to visit a field of poppies each year, and watch as the flowers gradually opened at their own natural rate.
Some clients will naturally need longer-term therapy – for example, those with a history of abuse or neglect, or with borderline personality disorder. This can be difficult if an agency imposes a maximum number of sessions.
As a counsellor, consider how pressure from clients makes you feel. Rory and Ken give tips on how to separate client expectations from our own desire to meet those expectations – including the importance of taking any difficulties in this regard to supervision.
Phenomenology is an approach in philosophy that concentrates on people’s direct experience. It recognises that to each individual, their own experience holds far greater authority than anything else. Phenomenology underpins many modern modalities, for example transactional analysis, gestalt therapy and person-centred counselling.
The basic ideas underlying phenomenology can be traced back to the Greek philosopher Plato, though the specific historical movement was developed in the first half of the 20th century by philosophers and thinkers such as:
- Edmund Husserl
- Martin Heidegger
- Maurice Merleau-Ponty
- Jean-Paul Sartre.
It was the German philosopher Husserl who developed a set of ideas that is sometimes referred to as ‘descriptive psychology’. This encompasses the study of experience or consciousness as experienced from the individual’s point of view (‘frame of reference’), and includes their perceptions, habits, social practices, language and feelings.
Rory explores why phenomenology is such an important philosophical component in modern therapies, including underpinning Rogers’ 19 propositions.
The importance of phenomenology can be illustrated using Plato’s cave analogy. A gentle challenge of a client’s sense of reality may – only if the client is ready – facilitate osmotic change.
The Skill of Questioning
Ken delves deep into what makes a question appropriate (enhancing relational depth with a client) as opposed to inappropriate (possibly even derailing the therapy).
Questioning is often inappropriate in person-centred therapy, in which the client is our guide, and we accompany them. It can be very tempting to ask a question to nudge a client towards something that we perceive as important, but this would mean we were leading them.
Another hazard of questioning is that it takes the client out of their emotional core and into their head, requiring them to use cognitive skills. Leading the client away from their feelings is not conducive to effective counselling.
Rogers asserted that the only appropriate use of questioning was to clarify a client’s meaning, so deepening the empathic bond. Clarification can also be achieved by using reflection.
Ken ends by explaining the difference between closed questions, which invite a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer, and open questions, which invite the client to elaborate. The latter are far more useful than the former.
Does it matter whether a course is accredited by the BACP? Rory and Ken believe not, so long as the tutors are qualified, are in practice as counsellors themselves, and are delivering the criteria of the awarding body for that course.
If your course is not BACP-accredited, then you will need to take the BACP’s Certificate of Proficiency. If you have been taught well and you are a reflective practitioner, you are likely to get through this without undue difficulty.
Training on a BACP-accredited course does not make you a BACP-accredited practitioner. The BACP’s accreditation scheme for individual practitioners is something different, which members can apply for only after they have been in practice for at least three years and have completed a minimum of 450 supervised practice hours.