085 – ‘Here and Now’ in Counselling – Client Dependency – Reasons for Study
In episode 85 of the Counselling Tutor Podcast, Ken Kelly and Rory Lees-Oakes look at the ‘here and now’ in counselling. In ‘Practice Matters’, Rory talks about the risk of client dependency and how to spot this. Finally, the presenters discuss common motivations for studying counselling.
‘Here and Now’ in Counselling (starts at 2.14 mins)
If you have watched the Gloria films, you’ll have seen Fritz Perls demonstrate gestalt therapy. In his description of this approach before the session starts, Perls refers to working in ‘equal, present time’.
Rory asserts that it is important for counsellors to anchor themselves in equal and present time when working with clients. The client can easily slip into the past when reflecting on previous experiences, and it is important for the therapist not to get drawn into this past narrative. The person-centred approach focuses strongly on the here and now, acknowledging the client’s past yet encouraging them to look at how they feel now. It is in the present that the real work of therapy takes place.
Babette Rothschild provides a protocol for clients experiencing flashbacks following trauma; Rory will be talking more about her work in future podcasts, and offering a lecture on this in the Counselling Study Resource (CSR). He already has a CSR lecture that explains in plain language the structure of the human brain, as a way to help understand what is going on for clients when they experience flashbacks.
Useful techniques that you can practise to help you stay in the here and now include reminding yourself of your current age (Rory reports that he says to himself: ‘I’m 60 – not six!’), and mindfulness.
Client Dependency (starts at 13.42 mins)
It is important to do your best to ensure that your clients are seeking therapy rather than anything else from you as a counsellor. A key purpose of counselling is to encourage client autonomy, so a client becoming dependent on you – for example, for friendship, is not appropriate.
Rory describes ‘danger’ signs to look out for that might suggest a client is growing dependent on you, describing how to identify and avoid client dependency. Key tips include:
- doing a regular (perhaps six-weekly) review, which gives you the opportunity to ask clients how they feel their counselling is going, what changes they have so far made, and for how long they feel they would like to continue therapy
- having your own personal counselling in order to explore your style of attachment, thus helping to reduce the risk of transference, countertransference and projective identification in the therapy room
- making the most of supervision as a way to spot and tackle any client dependency.
Reasons for Study (starts at 24.39 mins)
What brings people to study counselling? Rory and Ken discuss a range of possible motivations for people to want to train as counsellors, including the following:
- They might have a desire to ‘give back’ after they have themselves come through difficult experiences, perhaps with the help of counselling; this motivation relates to the idea of the ‘wounded healer’ (a term coined by psychologist Carl Jung that draws on the Greek myth of Chiron).
- They might be attracted by the opportunity to increase self-awareness and gain personal development, which is richly offered by counselling training.
- They might wish to acquire counselling skills to use alongside other helping work, e.g. as a social worker, teacher, pastor, police officer or health professional.
Counselling skills are widely applicable to many aspects of daily life and a wide range of other work roles. The core conditions of empathy, congruence and unconditional positive regard really are a way of being, which is transportable to many contexts other than counselling itself.