COUNSELLING BLOG

Posts tagged Counsellor

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Qualities and Skills of a Good Counsellor

1. You can tell that they are trustworthy; you feel safe with them.

2. They demonstrate unconditional acceptance, genuineness and empathy.

3. They try to understand things from your perspective.

4. You can tell that they are for you.  

5. They believe in you. They have a sense of hope and confidence in your ability to change, or find a solution that will work for you.

6. They give you their full and undivided attention when you are sharing with them. (They never seem impatient, disinterested or distracted.)

7. They listen without interrupting.

8. In a counselling session, you do around 90% of the talking; they only talk about 10% of the time.

9. You can tell they are interested in what you have to say. What matters to you also matters to them. You set the agenda – not them.

10. They help you to find your own solutions instead of giving advice or telling you what you should do.

11. They are warm, calm, sensitive, caring, open, patient and concerned.

12. You feel that you can be your true self when you are with them. You don’t feel judged, criticised or written-off.

13. You get the sense that they respect and like who you are.  

14. You feel valued by them; they see you as the expert on your own life.

15. They are comfortable with silence.

Filed under counselling counsellor psychology therapy mental health mental illness self help self improvement inspiration motivation online counselling college

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Good counsellor; bad counsellor

Not all counsellors are good counsellors. Some should be avoided as they’re clearly unskilled and don’t offer clients the service they deserve. So what are the warning signs to pay attention to; what should notice and view as a red flag?

1. The counsellor is attempting to work outside their area of training and expertise.

2. The counsellor has their own agenda – instead of working on your personal goals.

3. The counsellor fails to offer you a contract for service, information on your rights as a client, and information on their ethical policies.   

4. The counsellor is judgmental or criticises your attitudes, choices, decisions or lifestyle.

5. The counsellor is harsh or confrontational (instead of being accepting, understanding and empathic).

6. The counsellor fails to listen carefully, or to give you their full attention in the session. (For example, they allow interruptions, or they seem distracted and miss important details you have shared).

7. The counsellor forgets your name and doesn’t remember information you shared at a previous counselling session.

8. The counsellor adopts a one-up position, and treats you as inferior or uninformed. (This can include using psychobabble.)

9. The counsellor acts as if they have all the answers and tells you what to do, or offers you advice.

10. The counsellor either talks too much, or not at all.

11. The counsellor reacts or gets defensive when you offer feedback or voice dissatisfaction.

12. The counsellor knowingly, or unknowingly, is getting their needs met at your expense. (For example, they may talk excessively about themselves, or similar problems they’ve had, or are having.)

13. The counsellor seems overwhelmed by your problems.

14. The counsellor seems uncomfortable with displays of emotion. They seem more at ease with facts than feelings.

15. The counsellor is uninterested in your culture or spirituality.

16. The counsellor tries to push their culture and spiritual beliefs on you.

17. The counsellor flirts with you, or is interested in developing a romantic or sexual relationship with you.

18. The counsellor discloses personal information about you without your written consent. Alternatively, he or she shares personal information about his or her other clients.

19. The counsellor is late for, cancels or forgets appointments.

20. The counsellor has unresolved complaints with their licensing board.

Filed under counselling psychology therapy mental health mental illness Counsellor self help self improvement social work online counselling college

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5 Things a Counsellor Should Never Say

1.   “I know how you feel.”

-  No-one really knows how another person feels.

- It sound patronizing and lacking in empathy.

- It limits exploration of the client’s feelings, and understanding more fully how things appear to them.

2.  “It will be all right.”

-  How do you know that it will be all right? Your assumptions could be totally wrong.

- It sounds superficial, insincere and lacking in compassion and empathy.

- It sends the message that you don’t want to listen any longer – so the client is prevented from working through their pain.

 3.   “If I were you I would …”

- It isn’t about the counsellor; it is all about the client and what will work for them.

- It minimizes how complex and difficult this is … and sends the message that problem is trivial and easy.

- Counselling is NOT about giving advice. The aim is “to explore to better understand” and then helping the client to choose what they will do.

 4.   “You should have/ you shouldn’t have …”

- The counsellor should be non-judgmental and accepting. Yet this is both judgmental and super critical.

- It is subtly guilt-tripping the client for their choice – and they don’t have to please or explain themselves to you.

- It limits problem-solving and dis-empowers the client.

 5.  “Wow. That’s terrible!”

-  A comment like this can keep the client stuck as they now feel bogged down by “how awful things are.”

- Without intending to, it frames the client as a victim and takes away their power and autonomy.

- It keeps the focus on the past, and helps the client escape from their current and their future responsibilitie

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The Best Brain Foods

1. Coffee:  Boosts short-term memory; improves attention and problem-solving skills; slows down the aging process.

2. Blueberries. Improves thinking, and helps with long-term memory. Also, the antioxidants found in blueberries are believed to protect the brain from free-radical damage - and thus reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

3. Salmon or mackerel: Speeds up, or increases, your thinking power. Omega-3 fatty acids (found in these fish) are a primary building block of brain tissue. They also contain niacin which helps to slow down the rate of cognitive decline.

4. Low-fat yogurt or mixed nuts: Helps you to relax. Specifically, these 2 foods significantly reduce the levels of stress hormones in the blood.

5. Leafy green salads: Improve your mood and increase subjective happiness. These foods are a great source of B vitamins - which are important for manufacturing feel-good hormones (serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.) They also protect against irritability and depression.

6. Flaxseeds: Helps us process information; sharpens the senses; heightens our experience of pleasure.

Filed under Counsellor psychology therapy brain Neuroscience neuropsychology diet Nutrition self improvement self help online counselling college

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Jealousy

Jealousy is a powerful and intense emotion which is neither subtle nor generous. It is also complex, and can include a range of feelings from fear of abandonment … to terror … to rage … to revenge … to depression … to humiliation. It affects both sexes when they think that a third person is threatening a valued relationship. And although it has been said it protects important bonds, it more commonly destroys relationships.

Usually, jealousy begins as a feeling of unease at the possibility that we could lose the attention, or affection, of someone who’s important to us. This becomes more complex as the feeling takes root and we feel we’ve been betrayed, tossed aside and, thus, rejected.  At this point, we feel devalued and we want to hit out - which invariably makes the situation even worse. Now it’s hard to reconnect as resentment’s come between us – and if that’s not addressed, it will turn to contempt.

So how should we deal with our early jealous feelings so they don’t become a monster that poisons everything?

1.    First of all, try and grasp that a tendency to feel intensely jealous is a symptom of shaky self esteem. Also, expecting chronic reassurance is a goal that’s doomed to fail - as your partner will feel that you’re a bottomless pit – and you’re only likely to drive them away.

2.    Instead, remind yourself that you’re complete without your mate, you have your own sense of self or identity, and you can function as whole and healthy person on your own.

3.    Recognise that harmful jealousy is not a sign of love. Instead, it points to neediness and insecurity. That will need to be addressed, on your own, in counselling. Be particularly concerned if you are battling with rage, the desire to seek revenge or powerful feelings of self-hatred.

Filed under jealousy emotions relationships Counsellor psychology therapy envy online counselling college

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A Mile in their Shoes: Understanding Empathy

The human brain evolved to ensure our survival. One example of that survival instinct is our sense of competition – historically, it’s part of what drives us to wage wars over power and resources. But an equally powerful survival tactic is our ability to love and cooperate with others.

“A lot of times, that story never gets told,” says Karen Gerdes, a social worker at ASU. She is interested in empathy, which is the ability to perceive the world from other people’s points of view and to feel what they are feeling.

Empathy is a complex emotion because it involves both unconscious, involuntary responses and conscious, cognitive processes. For example, suppose you’ve had a traumatic experience, like losing a loved one. “You see someone else who is going through that experience, and your brain automatically starts firing as if it’s happening to you. That helps you to understand a little bit better about what that person is going through,” Gerdes says.

People who are very empathic tend to be more understanding and have stronger relationships. For a social worker, empathy is also an essential part of the job.

“Social work is all about improving quality of life for people,” Gerdes says. “We do that by helping them to be their better self, and by creating a society that is more supportive. Empathy is at the core of both of those things.”

Gerdes is an associate professor in the School of Social Work in the College of Public Program. She began studying empathy in 2006 after learning about new research from the field of social cognitive neuroscience.

“They’ve confirmed that our brain is set up to process information in a way that helps us to be more empathic and cooperative,” Gerdes said.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI), neuroscientists can watch empathy in action in a person’s brain through the interaction of four neural networks—groups of neurons that perform specific functions. When all four of these neural networks are engaged, that person is expressing empathy.

Have you ever felt yourself smiling after seeing a stranger laugh, or feeling sad after watching someone else cry? This emotional “mirroring” phenomenon is called affective sharing, and it’s one of the observable neural networks that define empathy.

“People that are especially sensitive could find themselves feeling angry or irritable or annoyed and not even know why, and it’s because they’re picking up on the emotion of another person who is actually feeling those things,” Gerdes says.

Affective sharing is an automatic, unconscious phenomenon, but there’s more to empathy than just mirroring another person’s emotions. You also must be able to put yourself in their shoes. This is the function of another neural network, called perspective taking. It’s that cognitive ability to understand a situation from the perspective of someone else that separates empathy from sympathy, which is just an expression of concern or sorrow.

The third neural network that defines empathy is self-awareness, or the ability to differentiate between your own experience and that of the person with whom you are empathizing. In the example of losing a loved one, it may be helpful for the brain to remind you of those feelings so you can empathize with a friend, but you also must recognize that your experience is separate from theirs.

“You’re there with them, but you’re open to listening, because their experience is not going to be exactly the same as yours. You need to be able to differentiate that so you’re not imposing things on them that worked for you,” Gerdes says.

Additionally, empathy requires emotion regulation – the fourth neural network. Emotion regulation allows a person to tone down the mirroring emotions that result from affective sharing. Social workers often work with people who lack emotion regulation.

“If you put it in the context of a man that abuses his wife, he understands when his wife gets frustrated, the affect sharing is working, but the emotion regulation piece isn’t,” Gerdes says. “He may be feeding off his own anxiety as well as the people around him, and because he can’t control that, he takes it out on the people closest to him.”

"When you have an empathy deficit, like Hitler did, you have genocide. When you have appropriate empathy, those things don’t happen because you’ll interfere with them happening."

Once you understand how these neural networks function, you can actually cultivate empathy. For example, to improve emotion regulation, Gerdes suggests using mindfulness techniques, such as meditation or focused breathing.

“It helps people to cope better with the emotions they’re picking up on from others, to function better at a higher level,” Gerdes says.

It can also be helpful to simply bring the emotional contagion aspect of empathy to consciousness, Gerdes says. Next time you start feeling anxious or irritated for no reason, take note of your surroundings. Are other people in the room angry or sad? Being aware of the contagious quality of emotion can help you determine whether someone’s bad mood is rubbing off on you.

To build your capacity for perspective taking, Gerdes suggests watching movies or reading books about the specific group of people you want to understand. The more you know about the context of a person’s life, the more empathic you can be.

Since empathy is at the core of social work, it’s important to be able to measure it. Gerdes says one of the most accurate measures is the multi-faceted empathy test (MET), which is based on social cognitive neuroscience research. It asks participants to look at 23 sets of photographs of people in emotionally charged situations and then try to determine each person’s emotional state, perspective and intentions.

While MET is an effective test, it is also relatively expensive and requires some training to administer. Most researches tend to rely on self-report measures because they are inexpensive. The most widely used self-report measure is the interpersonal reactivity index (IRI), which was developed in the ‘80s. The problem with IRI is that it ends up assessing a person’s level of sympathy rather than empathy.

“Sympathy and empathy are completely different constructs. They’re probably correlated with each other, but they’re not the same thing,” Gerdes says.

Gerdes is developing a new self-report measure called the empathy assessment index (EAI), which is based on the latest neuroscience research. In a recent study, she tested the measure by comparing data from a group of offenders with a group of social workers. The offenders included men who had been charged with domestic violence or sexual molestation, and at-risk parents struggling with anger management issues.

“We wanted to compare the offenders’ scores on our instrument, the assessment index, to the social workers’ scores. If it’s a valid measure, there should be a significantly significant difference in their scores, and thank goodness there was,” Gerdes says. She hopes to see a shift from the outdated IRI self-report measure to the new, research-based EAI measure, which will be more accurate but just as inexpensive to use.

Empathy is a relatively new word, only having come about in the 20th century. While most social work classes discuss empathy to some extent, few schools have incorporated the latest research into the curriculum. But Gerdes believes they soon will, because empathy is an important concept for both social workers and the general public.

“When you have an empathy deficit, like Hitler did, you have genocide,” Gerdes says. “When you have appropriate empathy, those things don’t happen because you’ll interfere with them happening. You’ll do everything you can, because it’s at the core of our human interaction that I try to understand you and you try to understand me.”

Source: http://esciencenews.com/sources/physorg

Filed under Counsellor Insight emotions empathy online counselling college psychiatry psychology psychology research self help self improvement social science research social work therapy mental health mental illness

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Going in Search of the Right Counsellor

So you’ve finally decided to go for counselling but the big question now is who should you see? For you’re taking a risk when you open up your heart and share your secrets with a person you don’t know. The following guidelines can help you with this process:

1.    Ask other people for a recommendation - Often friends and family have seen a counsellor, too, or they know of someone with a good reputation. Find out why that counsellor has “worked” for them, and why they are happy to pass the name along. This is important for research confirms that qualities are more important than skills.    

2.    Take advantage of free initial counselling consultations – Many practitioners will offer a free consultation in order to get to know prospective clients. And usually at that meeting you can get a sense if this is someone you respect and trust. Prepare before the session by writing out some questions – and pay attention to your instincts and your gut reactions.

3.    If you feel after that meeting, or a few counselling sessions, that you can’t connect with that counsellor then don’t hesitate to ask for a referral. Most trained professionals want what’s best for their client and are happy to refer you to another counsellor.

4.    Do what’s right for you – Only you can tell if this is working or not … and there’s no point going if there’s no benefit. But at the same time remember that counselling’s hard work … that progress can be slow … and that change is difficult.    

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Conversion disorder (Hysterical neurosis)

Conversion disorder is a condition in which a person has blindness, paralysis, or other nervous system (neurologic) symptoms that cannot be explained by medical evaluation.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Conversion disorder symptoms may occur because of a psychological conflict.

Symptoms usually begin suddenly after a stressful experience. People are more at risk for a conversion disorder if they also have a medical illness, dissociative disorder, or a personality disorder. It is important to understand that patients are not making up their symptoms (malingering). Some doctors falsely believe that conversion disorder is not a real condition, and may tell patients the problem is all in their head. However, these conditions are real. They cause distress and cannot be turned on and off at will. The physical symptoms are thought to be an attempt to resolve the conflict the person feels inside. For example, a woman who believes it is not acceptable to have violent feelings may suddenly feel numbness in her arms after becoming so angry that she wanted to hit someone. Instead of allowing herself to have violent thoughts about hitting someone, she may experience the physical symptom of numbness in her arms.

Symptoms

Symptoms of a conversion disorder include the loss of one or more bodily functions, such as: Blindness, inability to speak, numbness or paralysis. Diagnostic testing does not find any physical cause for the symptoms.

Signs and tests

Common signs of conversion disorder include:

·         A debilitating symptom that begins suddenly

·         A history of a psychological problem that gets better after the symptom appears

·         A lack of concern that usually occurs with a severe symptom

Your doctor will do a physical examination, and possibly diagnostic tests, to rule out physical causes for the symptom.

Treatment

Talk therapy (psychotherapy) and stress management training may help reduce symptoms.

The affected body part or physical function will need physical or occupational therapy until the symptoms disappear. For example, paralyzed limbs must be exercised to prevent muscle wasting.

Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001950/

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The Key Components for Effective Counselling

Counselling is easy to access today, and is widely acknowledged as playing a role in maintaining a healthy state of mind. But the actual components which lead to success – so clients truly benefit from counselling – have been harder to identify. However, replicated research seems to indicate that the following components are essential for this:

1. Effective counsellors: Perhaps not surprisingly, studies have shown that effective counsellors are rated more highly on affirmation and nurturing behaviours and lower on “watch and manage,” “belittle and blame,” and “ignore and neglect” behaviours (Najavits & Strupp, 1994). Thus, effective counsellors are able to form a therapeutic alliance with the client, and then effectively convey an appreciation for the client and their struggles. Furthermore, they are able to build on the client’s strengths so that he or she feels more competent, patient, hopeful, enthusiastic and expectant of achieving a positive change (Snyder et al., 1999).

2. Effective relationship dynamics: This includes the following relationship dynamics:

• An emotionally charged, safe and trusting relationship between the counsellor and client

• Being warm, accepting and empathic

• A relationship that’s based on respect and liking

• The effective and confident use of a theoretical framework or perspective (Freudian, humanistic, cognitive etc). This should also make sense to the client

• The passage of time - which leads to a feeling of reliability, consistency, predictability and efficacy  

• Conveying hope and positive expectation.

3. Effective use of counselling techniques/ therapeutic interventions: Although these play a role in the success of counselling, it is important to remember that only contribute for about 12% of the success (Lambert, 1992). Indeed, it has been recommended that counsellor use techniques which suit each unique client rather than adhering to a set repertoire.  

4. Effective therapies: This refers to choosing skills and techniques which relieve, ameliorate or cure the client’s symptoms; enhance the agency of the client; increases the client’s ability to tolerate negative symptoms or experiences; and improve the client’s self-efficacy.

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