122 – Counselling Session Role Play versus ‘Real-Life’ Counselling
How Counselling Differs from Other Helping Professions – Why We Check In
In episode 122 of the Counselling Tutor Podcast, Ken Kelly and Rory Lees-Oakes discuss the differences between counselling and other forms of helping. Our new regular segment, ‘Check-In with CPCAB’, then looks at why we check in. Finally, the presenters explore the experience of counselling in ‘real life’ as opposed to college-based counselling session role play or practice sessions.
How Counselling Differs from Other Helping Professions (starts at 1.20 mins)
People from many different helping professions are attracted to counselling training. For example, you may come across police officers, teachers, and healthcare staff as peers on your training course.
Although these people may be highly competent in their existing profession, the form of helping that they are used to practising may be very different from counselling – and so require them to adjust their skill set quite markedly.
For example, the role of some other helping professions is to rescue or advise, but these are two things that counsellors (particularly in the person-centred tradition) specifically do not do.
There is a huge difference between listening to respond and listening to understand.
In our society, the latter is rare and thus a special skill to be able to offer those with whom we share a therapeutic relationship as counsellors.
This involves listening to ‘the music behind the words’ as Carl Rogers put it, which involves attending to far more than just the words used by the client. It can involve a big shift for many other helping professions.
For more information on this, you might like to read the piece on the Counselling Tutor website about the definition of counselling.
Rory has also written a handout on comparing and contrasting counselling with other helping professions. You can download this free of charge here; it is also available through the Handouts Vault and Counselling Study Resource (CSR).
Check-In with CPCAB: Check-ins (starts at 9.00 mins)
Rory speaks to Ray van der Poel (Head of Business and Development) at CPCAB (Counselling & Psychotherapy Central Awarding Body) about check-ins.
Ray explains that the concept of checking in derives from Buddhist meditation, where it refers to bringing something into our awareness or to our attention.
Ray and Rory discuss a number of reasons why checking in has become an important part of counselling training:
- For counselling to be effective, the counsellor must be congruent. This authenticity depends on the counsellor having a good level of self-awareness – and the check-in process supports this by encouraging participants to reflect on and articulate how they are feeling.
- Becoming accustomed to checking in on our own feelings helps to ensure that we are fit for practice, becoming aware of any issues we are struggling with that might otherwise take us out of the client’s frame of reference or put us at risk of problems arising from parallel process. Thus, it encourages ethical practice.
- Checking in also helps foster our awareness of the fact that a group of people in apparently the same situation can all feel differently. This is useful in supporting our recognition of diversity and in fostering unconditional positive regard and empathy.
- The tutor is also able to know from the check-in whether any student is feeling ‘wobbly’, and so offer them appropriate and timely support.
There are various different types of check-in. For example, participants might be asked to sum up their feelings in just one word, or within a set amount of time.
When the well-known existential psychotherapist Irvin Yalom runs groups, he does a double check-in: in the first round, participants are invited to say how they feel, and in the second what they need/want to get from the session.
The exact nature of checking in is likely to vary between levels, as more advanced students will probably have greater self-awareness. Many groups also use checking out: a similar process of reflection at the end of the session.
For more information, please see CPCAB’s website. CPCAB is the UK’s only awarding body run by counsellors for counsellors.
Counselling Session Role Play versus ‘Real-Life’ Counselling (starts at 20.55 mins)
When you practise your counselling skills in class, particularly when you have counselling session role play, you do so with likeminded people who understand ‘the rules of the game’ (e.g. the importance of time boundaries).
This is not so in ‘real-life’ counselling (e.g. when you start your placement).
In particular, don’t expect to use all your skills in every session on placement. For example, it’s common for clients to talk a lot in the first session, as they ‘open the floodgates’ on their experiences.
Silence may be the most valuable and most prevalent skill at this stage.
You’ll find lots of free resources on skills on the Counselling Tutor website (click on ‘Skills’ in the top menu) which can help you prepare for counselling session role play.
You’ll also find a dedicated skills section with tailored lectures in our paid resource, the CSR.