Working with Challenging Clients in Counselling • [Podcast for Counsellors]

176 – Working with Challenging Clients in Counselling

Immediacy – Self-Care in Online Working

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In episode 176 of the Counselling Tutor Podcast, Rory Lees-Oakes and Ken Kelly look at the skill of immediacy in the ‘Student Check-In’. ‘Digital Counselling Revolution’ then focuses on self-care in online working. Last, in ‘Practice Matters’, the presenters discuss working with hard-to-help or challenging clients in counselling.

Immediacy (starts at 1.15 mins)

Discussing the advanced skill of immediacy – which arose recently in the Counselling Tutor Facebook group (do come along and join if you’ve not already!), Ken and Rory cover:

  • what immediacy is (giving a definition of this)
  • the various elements it comprises
  • examples from practice of when it may be used
  • timing of effective use of immediacy
  • how to manage stepping outside the client’s frame of reference
  • the importance of ‘gut feeling’
  • possible benefits and pitfalls
  • how to use congruence to recover from miscued immediacy.

Rory has produced a handout on the skill of immediacy in counselling, which you can download here, or via the Counselling Study Resource (CSR). The CSR also contains a lecture and range of resources on this interesting skill.

Self-Care in Online Working (starts at 11.45 mins)

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The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a huge growth in online working, and this brings with it a number of challenges – including the fact that this new way of working can be far more draining or the counsellor than face-to-face sessions.

For example, handling the technological side of the contact is another task to attend to, you may be working at a desk rather than on a more comfortable seat, and you have to listen differently to pick up nuances that might have been more clearly visible in a face-to-face setting.

Ken and Rory highlight the importance of self-care in avoiding counsellor exhaustion and burnout. Key comments of this include:

  • taking regular rest breaks of sufficient length to move away from your desk, perhaps getting some fresh air
  • considering the comfort level of your seating and overall environment
  • ensuring that your supervisor has experience of counselling online, so that they can fully understand the strains you may be feeling
  • networking with peers if possible (not on confidential client matters, but on the general strains of online counselling work).

One way of gaining this mutual support from peers is to take our course, Online and Telephone Counselling, which includes access to an online support group where you can meet and discuss this and other topics with other counsellors who are also working online.

Working with Hard-to-Help or Challenging Clients in Counselling (starts at 27.05 mins)

All counsellors will – at some point in their time in practice – encounter clients who are challenging or hard to help. This may become apparent at the very beginning of the therapeutic relationship, or may emerge as an issue after a small number of sessions.

Challenging clients may well have tried counselling before: if so, it is worth exploring how they found this, and also what help would look like to them – in other words, what expectations do they have of counselling, and how do they prefer to work?

It may also be interesting to ask how they see us – is there something about their view of us (perhaps based on transference rather than who we really are) that is inhibiting their trust in our ability to help?

Indeed, it is not uncommon for challenging clients in counselling to have trust issues – and building the therapeutic relationship in this situation may itself take some time.

If you are working for an agency that allows you to provide only a very limited number of sessions, you will need to handle these carefully. You may wish to consider referring on if this feels best for the client – with their consent and understanding, of course.

Rory ends with a quotation from his book, Counselling Theory in Practice: A Student Guide.

Free Handout Download

Examples of Immediacy

Links and Resources

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