Counselling Studies Level 3 Learning Journal – The Gloria Films
This week we watched three videos showing a client, Gloria, in three different counselling sessions – one with Carl Rogers (Person-Centred), one with Fritz Perls (Gestalt), and one with Albert Ellis (Rational Emotive). The videos were fascinating and it was interesting to see the differences between theoretical perspectives in practice. They made me think more deeply about how the counselling relationship contributes to counselling work, in particular what is necessary to develop an effective working relationship with clients. I believe that the components of an effective working relationship are likely to differ across clients, counsellors, and problems. On the other hand, I also believe that there are some basic components that are necessary to at least create the foundations for an effective working relationship.
By far one of the most important elements of developing an effective working relationship is trust. Many people who attend counselling are likely to have been let down and therefore it might take some time for them to be fully trusting of their counsellor (Sutton and Stewart, 2008). The skills within person-centred theory, such as active listening, accurate responding, reflecting feelings, and empathy, are productive of building trust. They show the client that the counsellor is fully present and really hearing their thoughts and feeling their emotions.
Once trust has been gained, clients are likely to feel more able to be themselves and to share their thoughts and feelings without censorship. In turn, such genuineness and authenticity will strengthen the therapeutic relationship further, particularly as unconditional positive regard continues to be demonstrated towards the client regardless of what they divulge. For me, this has been essential within my own personal counselling. While I need to be challenged, like Perls and Ellis challenged Gloria, more than that I need to feel safe and I need to feel ‘held,’ which is what came across within Roger’s approach to working with Gloria. Roger’s gained trust within minutes, to the extent that Gloria could confess she wished he was her father. Furthermore, by the end of the session, it appeared that Gloria was no longer in need of the advice she was initially seeking. Instead, by being open and developing trust, Roger’s had empowered Gloria to find her own answers.
The videos were also useful for seeing the three stages of the counselling session in process – the beginning, middle, and end:
The beginning starts with the first impressions that a client has during their initial session. First impressions count and the quick development of rapport can help put the client at ease and feel safe. The counsellor and their environment need to be warm, comforting, and approachable if the client is to feel empowered enough to discuss what has bought them to counselling (Mearns and Thorne, 2007). With rapport and trust gained, the middle stage of a session is likely to be more open and detailed, where the client now feels ‘held’ enough to address any painful thoughts and feelings.
It is when such thoughts and feelings are expressed that the middle stage also becomes a time for the counsellor to demonstrate the three core conditions of congruence, unconditional positive regard, and empathy. This is part of the healing process, which will continue well beyond the session.
Finally, as the end of the session approaches, the counsellor can once again demonstrate their sincerity by summarising the client’s issues and providing the client with the space to clarify any misunderstandings. Leaving the session feeling heard is essential and also something that every client should experience after the bravery of sharing their inner thoughts and feelings. It cannot be guaranteed that clients will leave feeling positive, but at least if they feel heard, they can feel less alone. They can also be reassured that their healing has begun.
If any of these stages go wrong, the client is unlikely to return, unless they are addressed satisfactorily at the time in a congruent manner.
Sutton, J. and Stewart, W. (2008). Learning to Counsel: Develop the Skills, Insight and Knowledge to Counsel Others. How To Books Ltd: Oxford.
Mearns, D. and Thorne, B. (2007). Person-Centred Counselling in Action. SAGE Publications Ltd.