059 – When Your Personal Beliefs Differ from the Client’s – Eugene Gendlin’s Focusing – Hitting Awarding-Body Criteria
In episode 59 of the Counselling Tutor Podcast, Ken and Rory discuss how to offer unconditional positive regard (UPR) when your client has very different personal beliefs from your own. ‘Theory with Rory’ looks at the work of Eugene Gendlin, who developed the approach of focusing. Finally, the presenters offer encouragement on meeting the criteria of awarding bodies for counselling qualifications.
When Your Personal Beliefs Differ from the Client’s (starts at 3.37 mins)
What do you do when your personal beliefs, values and experiences are at odds with your client’s? Counselling training shows us that what we considered to be ‘truths’ are in fact all our own views of the world – that is, seen through our own frame of reference.
It can sometimes be a struggle to offer a client UPR. Ken and Rory make the following suggestions:
- Ask yourself while you are training: what would I struggle to work with? Reflecting on this and exploring the reasons behind our difficulties with certain clients/issues can provide great personal development as well as making us better counsellors.
- If you really feel unable to offer a particular client UPR, it is ethical and respectful to refer them to another therapist who can provide this.
- Remember that UPR doesn’t mean approving of everything the client has done or said: this idea is sometimes known as ‘separating the sin from the sinner’. In other words, we don’t judge the underlying person for their action.
Ken reminds us of Carl Rogers’ analogy (in A Way of Being, 1980: 22): ‘People are just as wonderful as sunsets if I can let them be.’ In other words, we just enjoy sunsets; we don’t think about how they might be a bit better if they had more – or less – of a different colour. Just as with sunsets, we need to let people be their real, natural selves.
Eugene Gendlin’s Focusing (starts at 11.33)
Having provided a short biography of Eugene Gendlin, who studied under – and then became an associate and colleague of – Carl Rogers, Rory explains focusing. This is an avenue of person-centred counselling, to which a chapter is dedicated in The Tribes of the Person-Centred Nation (edited by Pete Sanders, 2012). Focusing would a good approach to cover if you were writing an assignment about developments in person-centred counselling.
Gendlin drew on the work of French philosopher Merleau-Ponty, who believed that phenomenology was based on a felt, visceral sense. Gestalt therapy draws on this same idea.
In focusing, the therapist helps the client gain awareness of self in a bodily sense, directing the client to their felt sense as a way of identifying and understanding edge-of-awareness feelings. This approach is therefore more directive than traditional person-centred therapy. It also uses techniques, for example disidentification (looking at how clients separate themselves from their feelings).
How to Hit Awarding-Body Criteria (starts at 23.02 mins)
While counselling training is an amazing and enlightening experience in terms of personal development and skills acquisition, many students experience the requirement to attend to criteria, evidencing their ability to meet these, as tedious. It can feel like being asked to jump through hoops, and may seem far removed from the real nature of counselling as a one-to-one interpersonal relationship.
Do remember that you are not alone in feeling this way, and that there are resources out there to help you. For example, one of the key skills in hitting criteria is accuracy: doing exactly as you are asked when instructed to, say, list, explain, define, analyse or evaluate. Rory has written lots of materials on how to help with this; these are available through our paid service, the CSR – see under ‘Assignment Guide & Exemplars’ and (for the final stage of the ABC Level 4 Diploma in Therapeutic Counselling) ‘ABC External Portfolio Key’.