050 – Vocabulary in Counselling – Redecision Therapy – Dealing with Conflict
In episode 50 of the Counselling Tutor Podcast, Ken Kelly describes the benefits of expanding your vocabulary. ‘Theory with Rory’ looks at redecision therapy, a school of transactional analysis. Last but not least, the presenters discuss the role and experience of conflict in counselling training and practice.
Expanding Your Vocabulary (starts at 4.05 mins)
When counselling a client, it is really important to make sure you use words that they understand; language can be used to wield inappropriate power (if you speak in a way that the client cannot easily understand).
A client may use a word that is unfamiliar to you. This can be the case if you have very different regional dialects. If this happens, don’t be afraid to clarify the meaning with your client. Their body language may well already give you some clues; you could also say ‘I hear you say [insert unfamiliar word]; I’m wondering what that means to you.’ This is a respectful way to ensure that you have understood the client’s meaning.
It is useful to try to expand your vocabulary so that you have a range of feelings words available to reflect back the client’s emotions. Ken gives the example of the word ‘afraid’, quoting many different words that can express different types and strengths of this emotion – e.g. ‘apprehensive’, ‘wary’, ‘worried’, ‘panicked’, ‘frightened’ and ‘terrified’.
Ken has produced a list of common emotion words and related vocabulary that can give you a wider range and subtlety of expression in the counselling room. This is available from the new Digital Handout Vault (DHV), a searchable service in the Counselling Study Resource. There, you can find user-friendly summaries and explanations of important counselling-related topics, all accessible for one yearly membership fee.
Redecision Therapy (starts at 15.48 mins)
Redecision therapy is so named because it helps clients to redecide on how they are going to be in the world.
Based on transactional analysis, developed by Eric Berne in the 1950s, redecision therapy was devised by social worker Mary McClure Goulding and psychiatrist Robert Goulding in the 1970s. It draws on the idea of life scripts (the stories we tell ourselves about who we are, based on introjects) and therapeutic contracts.
The Gouldings saw that there were three types of contract in counselling:
- the administrative contract – agreeing duration of sessions, dates, fees, confidentiality etc.
- the therapeutic contract – covering client protection (to avoid harm to self and others) and what happens as clients review their life scripts
- the psychological contract – which cuts through assumptions about clients’ selves and world views.
Redecision therapy draws on the empty-chair technique from gestalt therapy (developed by Fritz and Laura Perls). Placing an empty chair opposite the client, the therapist encourages the client to speak to an important figure from their past (e.g., a parent or teacher) and/or to different parts of themselves about how they feel.
Rory has written a handout about redecision therapy, which you can download free of charge here. It will also be available in the DHV.
Dealing with Conflict (starts at 25.10 mins)
Counselling training is a naturally rich ground for conflict to occur, and this can bring enormous learning for students. Rory and Ken present various tips on dealing with conflict with peers and tutors:
- Although conflict can be an uncomfortable experience at times, especially for some people, try to embrace the opportunity to learn about yourself.
- If you feel conflict with someone, don’t just blame them for this – look within yourself too, and consider taking the issue to personal counselling.
- If you feel that you and a particular student or tutor are in conflict, try taking them to one side and having an adult conversation about what is going on for both of you.
- Remember that transference and miscommunication are both commonly involved in conflict.
The skill of challenging in the counselling room is related to conflict (in a very measured dose, and very carefully used); becoming comfortable with conflict can help you in developing this skill. When working in an agency, it is also important to be able to challenge any unethical practices that you might notice – in line with the BACP Ethical Framework.