Counselling is a chance to rethink your feelings, and to re-feel your experiences; and to digest what
needs to be digested, and then move on.
Resource Pack R1: What is counselling and how is it done?
by Dr Jim Byrne
3rd October 2014
simple terms, counselling involves one person (the counsellor) helping another person (the client) to work through some difficult
or painful emotional, behavioural or relationship problem or difficulty. That is the form of individual counselling.
In practice there are probably almost as many definitions and descriptions of the process called
‘counselling' as there are theorists who have written on this subject. At one stage, the number of systems of
counselling and therapy was said to be more than 400. So narrowing down our definition to manageable proportions is
going to be our major challenge.
Therefore, let us begin in a modest manner,
with a new, five-minute video introduction to counselling specially designed for this page, and not available anywhere else:
If you were not able to take notes from the video clip above, then here are
the notes I made as a script to record the video. Of course, I embellished it as I went along, but the core ideas
to be presented were these:
1. To counsel somebody is to help in
a way that emphasizes the needs and goals of the person asking for help.
modern world is full of stresses and strains, and this accounts for the rise, growth and popularity of counseling.
3 Counselling can be defined in many ways, from one school of thought to another.
(a) In the person centred school of thought, it is about the capacity of the client to change their
self concept, in the context of the three core conditions of genuineness, empathy and non-possessive caring;
(b) In the psychodynamic approach, counselling is about helping the client to understand their own
non-conscious urges and habits, including where they come from in their childhood, and helping them to change in the here
(c) In the cognitive-behavioural approach, counselling is about helping
the client to identify their negative or unhelpful thoughts and beliefs, and to change them to something more self-helping
4. Because counselling has its roots in psychiatry,
psychology, philosophy, the arts and religion, it is not surprising that it takes diverse forms. But those forms also
reflect the strength of counselling in being highly adaptable to different cultural and historical contexts.
5. The common ground between each of the numerous schools of counselling is the focus upon assisting
an individual, through a helpful relationship, with their problems of everyday living. All forms of counselling offer
the client an opportunity to be heard and understood by an informed helper, who cares about their goals and their emotional
On this page, I will present
descriptions and video elaborations from the three main schools of thought: the cognitive-behavioural, the psychodynamic and
Dr John McLeod described counselling like this: "Counselling
is a wonderful twentieth-century invention. We live in a complex, busy, changing world. In this world, there are
many different types of experience that are difficult for people to cope with. Most of the time we get on with life,
but sometimes we are stopped in our tracks by an event or situation that we do not, at that moment, have the resources to
sort out". If we cannot find ways to sort this out in our family, with our friends, or with a priest or doctor,
etc., then "Counselling is a really useful option at these moments". John McLeod, An
Introduction to Counselling, 2003.
And here are a couple of quotes
that I particularly like, and which indicate my own integrative counselling style:
Counsellors must be clear that early childhood experiences are powerful influences on the shape of our personality
and our emotional functioning for the rest of our lives: "In my work as a clinical psychologist it has become
increasingly clear to me that even though personality patterns may be based in genetic or innate conditions, they are shaped,
to an equal degree, by our personal life and experiences, with childhood and early experiences as particularly crucial sources
Susan Hart (2011) The Impact of Attachment.
New York: W.W. Norton and Company. Page xi. (61)
Multimodal and integrative approaches to (attachment) counselling are likely to prove
more effective than those that emphasize one or other modality - thinking, feeling, acting, hearing, seeing, touching, or
speaking. "More than a hundred years ago, Freud argued that the brain develops through experience, and
that it may change as a result of psychotherapy; ever since, various approaches to psychotherapy (and counselling) have competed,
each laying claim to being the most effective. It would, however, be more productive to develop multimodal intervention
forms based on principles that incorporate neurobiological growth, regulation, and integration".
Susan Hart (2011) The Impact of Attachment. New York: W.W. Norton and Company.
Page 312. (66)
Here is a basic video description of counselling
which I prepared for my own potential clients about four years ago (in 2009). It will be elaborated further as we proceed
down this page.
A counsellor may also see a couple, especially a married or cohabiting couple, to help them with their relationship.
And some counsellors help whole families to work on their relationship problems. See also my Couples Therapy page.
Good enough counsellors provide a healing relationship for their counselling clients: How
can counselling relationships help the client to grow and have better relationships in the real world? "In the
world according to Bowlby, our lives, from the cradle to the grave, revolve around intimate attachments. Although our
stance toward such attachments is shaped most influentially by our first relationships, we are also malleable. If our
early involvements have been problematic, then subsequent relationships can offer second chances, perhaps affording us the
potential to love, feel, and reflect with the freedom that flows from secure attachment. (Counselling and) psychotherapy,
at its best, provides just such a healing relationship".
Wallin, Attachment in Psychotherapy, 2007, page 1 (3)
A new book on the
childhood of Albert Ellis and the impact of his suffering on the shape of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT)
‘A Wounded psychotherapist’ is the latest book by Dr Jim Byrne.It is an analysis of both the
childhood of Dr Albert Ellis (the creator of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy [REBT]), and how some of those childhood experiences
most likely gave rise to certain features of his later philosophy of psychotherapy.If you have ever wondered what the roots of REBT might have been, then this is
the book for you.it explores the childhood difficulties of Albert Ellis, and links those difficulties
forward to the ways in which REBT was eventually shaped.It also identified the strengths and weaknesses of REBT, and proposes an agenda for reform of this radical system
of psychotherapy.To read more, please go to: A Wounded Psychotherapist: Albert Ellis’s childhood and the strengths and limitations
Review: (This) is a highly intelligent book which treats the reader as an intelligent
inquirer. I have recommended the book to other professionals, such as lawyers, who deal with counsellors and counselling.
I have put it on my reading lists in the post-graduate counselling degrees conducted at my University. At the same time, I
have recommended it colleagues who boast years of experience.
McLeod covers mainstream
approaches to counselling such as psychodynamic, person-centered, CBT, systemic, feminist and narrative. He recognises that
conselling approches do not come from nowhere, but reflect specific socio-cultural context. His engaging accounts of these
contexts and of the individuals who articulated approaches which grew from them, provide a solid base from which to consider
each theoretical development. At the same time, McLeod is interested in what elements tie counselling together. What are the
root metaphors used by most counsellors most of the time?
McLeod is also deeply
interested in counselling as an ethical pursuit. He is concerned with the nature of social and interpersonal power and with
the moral principles which should guide theory and practice. He covers research, supervision, training and skills acquisition,
the politics of counselling and the nature of counselling organizations. He even ventures into predictive statments for the
next fifty years.
This book is an impressive achievement. The amount of information
and the breadth and depth of ideas is deceptive because each chapter reads so well.
have been in the business for twenty five years. I couldn't put it down!
by Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling, University of Manchester
8th October 2013
This mini-paper includes a reflective review of Chapter
1 of the book just mentioned above:
McLeod, John (2003) An Introduction to Counselling. Third Edition.
Buckingham: Open University Press. Pages 1-19.
Dr McLeod's seventeen page introduction
is, in my opinion, slightly too long and detailed to be optimally useful for getting a quick overview of
the answer to the question: What is counselling?
I have therefore boiled it down to four pages in
an effort to distil the essence of Dr McLeod's message. I began by taking notes and then thinking through the various
elements of his presentation, to arrive at an optimal structure for my presentation of his insights and conclusions.
Next, I wrote a four page summary of his chapter; and then boiled that summary down to the following one-paragraph
(I also answered some of the post text questions and sub-questions, and I have appended them at the end of
Counselling is a process which begins when a person (the client)
approaches a professionally trained person (the counsellor) for help with a problem of everyday living. The counsellor
actively listens and works collaboratively with the client to help the client to arrive at a satisfactory resolution of their
problem. That covers the person centred approach. To adequately cover the two other major schools of thought in
counselling, we must also add: A psychodynamic counsellor will look for the roots of the client's problems in their early
childhood experiences (as well as how the handle their current thinking, feeling and behaviour) - and help them to digest
previously undigested experiences. On the other hand, a cognitive-behavioural counsellor will look for the roots of
the client's problem in their current approach to thinking and behaving in response to their environment - and encourage them
to change their system of beliefs about troublesome aspects of their environment.
Extended (four-page) summary
McLeod suggests that it is the needs and goals of an individual which constitute the focus of counselling help. He suggests
that counselling emerged as a product of Western culture in the twentieth century, related to the needs of individuals in
large, impersonal organizations. He goes on to say that, since then, counselling and psychotherapy have largely taken
over the roles of the priest and the community based agony aunts of an earlier era. Counselling thus acts as a way of
being known, and of gaining succour in times of personal and especially emotional crisis.
The most fundamental feature
of counselling, according to Dr McLeod, is that "...it can only happen if the person seeking help, the client, wants
it to happen". (Page 15).
...end of extract...
To continue reading about Chapter 1
of this book, please click the link below which will take you to a downloadable document in Word format:
Counselling can help in
a number of different ways: with emotional functioning; behavioural functioning; relationship management and communication;
goal setting and pursuit; refining problems; identifying solutions; promoting efficient and effective actions; and so on.
Outcomes can include that the client...:
1. ...thinks more clearly, or to better effect;
...manages their emotions better, in that they no longer over-emote, nor under-emote, relative to their environmental situations;
3. ...behaves more effectively at home and at work;
4. ...feels happier; more alive; more integrated; more
in control; more goal oriented; and so on.
Here's a little
video clip showing the experiences of some former counselling clients:
The main aim
of this book is to spread happiness. Not just any old hedonistic happiness, excitement, or
thrill seeking; but rather pro-social, moral, sustainable happiness, in line with the insights of Positive psychology, Buddhist
psychology, Stoic philosophy and various forms of Rational and Narrative therapy, and the two major systems of writing therapy
(the scientific and the artistic).
In this book you will find a twelve week program
which is designed to help you to manage your life in such a way that you can reduce your unhappiness and increase your happiness.
You will learn simple techniques that can produce almost immediate improvements that will astound you.
Counselling is concerned with a number
of different tasks. These can be summarized as follows: "The term ‘counselling’ includes work with
individuals and with relationships, which may be developmental, crisis support, psychotherapeutic, guiding or problem solving
… The task of counselling is to give the client an opportunity to explore, discover and clarify ways of living more
satisfyingly and resourcefully”. (BAC, 1984, cited in McLeod, 2003).
CENT view of counselling is that, most often, counselling is concerned with "...helping the client to come to terms
with past or present reality, and often a very unpleasant reality from the client's past". (Byrne
2011a and 2011b)*.
This is a popular introduction to the theory and practice
of Cognitive Emotive Narrative Therapy (CENT), which is a highly effective new philosophy of life, and psychological system
This book was designed to answer the most common questions asked by
counsellors, psychologists, psychotherapists, counselling and therapy students, counselling and therapy clients, and self-help
enthusiasts, about the nature of CENT: how to learn it; and how to apply it in practice, to individual counselling, couple's
therapy, and self management.
The main aim is to demonstrate CENT counselling
in practice; and in the process you will learn something about how to integrate and apply CBT/REBT, Transactional Analysis
(TA), Attachment Theory, Object Relations and Zen philosophy and Moral philosophy.
Counselling takes place in a confidential
meeting, in a quiet room, and is subject to a code of ethics which specifies what the counsellor can and cannot morally
do in that context. (See the Accreditation and Ethicspage). Of course, we have to 'bite the bullet' and acknowledge that, in the past, there have been cases
of a few unscrupulous counsellors and therapists exploiting and abusing their clients (mainly financially and sexualy).
Potential clients of counselling and therapy should be warned of this possibility, so they can defend themselves better against
this small possibility. See Personal Safety in Counselling.***
As a rule, counsellors operate from three core principles: respect
for the client; genuineness in showing who they are in their relationship with the client; and empathy for the client's suffering.
Counsellors also use attentive body language to show the client that they are 'with them' in
their struggles, without being too confrontative. We avoid staring at the client's eyes; we sit at an angle
to the client so they can easily and naturally look away when they need to; and we 'actively listen' - which is a set of skills
described further down this page.
Here is an illustration of a counsellor
and client engaging in CBT counselling:
As practiced by Jim Byrne,
counselling and therapy (and coaching) amount to helping the client to identify the source of their emotional or behavioural
problems, so that they can come to terms with whatever aspect of reality they are resisting; and/or
to refine their understanding of their practical problems; and/or to clarify their goals in relation to some developmental
challenge; and/or to overcome their emotional, behavioural or relationship difficulties or problems. To understand how he
operates as a counsellor is to perceive him as a "(relatively) wise philosopher who teaches what he has used to heal
his own life"; and to facilitate the client's exploration of their own issues and needs, and to arrive at conclusions
or solutions that resolve their problems and move their lives forward.
In this manual, I want to do two things: (1) To present a basic understanding of the Rational-Emotive
Behaviour Therapy (REBT/CBT) approach
to dealing with anxiety’; and (2) To provide a set of exercises for you to do so that you can learn how to analyze your
problems with anxiety; identify solutions; and implement those solutions so as to eliminate your anxiety.
In that way,
you can become your own “counsellor”, in the area of anxiety and fear, because you can learn to fix your own emotional
and behavioural problems.
There are, of course, different approaches to counselling, with some being quite passive, listening
forms of counselling; while others are more analytical of the sources of the presenting problem; and others quite philosophical
and into teaching the client the philosophical wisdom of the ages.
'Theory and Practice of Counselling
is a very thorough introduction to the whole subject a knowledge of which is useful if not essential in the health, occupational
family and personal development sectors, as well as many other caring professions' - The Psychologist
Nelson-Jones' book has become so much a part of the counselling theory literature; it is hard to imagine discussing the topic
without reference to it. This Third Edition gives testimony to its continued value. It is hard to fault this book, its readability
and detailed referencing, alone, will mean that it will suit a wide readership? If you have to buy only one book on counselling
and therapy, this is it' - Professor Philip Burnard, Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing
Nelson-Jones takes this complex subject and explains the whys and hows of each different type of therapy about as well as
it can be done. There is no better introduction' - Amazon Review
'This book will be useful
to the student, one book to cover all the course topics; to the practicing counsellor, to improve their work and to the lecturer,
who wants to learn how to explain theories simply to their students. Richard Nelson-Jones writes in a way that makes it hard
to put down, a compliment more often associated with fictional rather than academic books. Do not worry about the price it
will save you buying three other similar books' - Amazon Review
Professor Mick Cooper from the University of Strathclyde talks
about his existential approach to counselling, which involves a concrete exploration of day to day challenges, and how to
tackle them and cope with the inevitable hassles and difficulties. He advocates 'focusing on the concrete'.
is now a well researched and documented argument that all systems of counselling and psychotherapy are broadly equivalent
in terms of the outcomes they achieve. Ever since Smith and Glass
(1977) produced their meta-analysis on the subject, there has been a strong and growing body of research evidence
that all systems of counselling and therapy produce broadly equivalent outcomes, and that the outcomes are produced by ‘common
factors', such as the nature of the relationship, and the promotion of re-thinking and re-deciding. (Wampold and Messer).
 Smith, M.L. and Glass, G.V. (1977) Meta-analysis of psychotherapy outcome studies, American Psychologist,
 Wampold, B.E. (2001) The Great Psychotherapy Debate: Model, methods, and findings. Mahwah,
NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. And:
Wampold, B.E., Ahn, H., and Coleman, H.K.L. (2001) Medical model
as metaphor: Old habits die hard. Journal of Counselling Psychology, 48, 268-273.
 Messer, S. and Wampold, B. (2002) Let's face facts: Common factors are more potent than specific therapy
ingredients. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice. 9: 21-25.
Carl Rogers was the father
of non-directive counseling, in the USA, where he could not practice more active forms of psychoanalysis or psychotherapy,
because he did not have a psychology degree. He therefore created a system which depended upon active listening to help
the client to clarify their own issues, and extending three core conditions towards the client: genuineness; empathy and non-possessive
Professor Robert Elliott of the University of Strathclyde talks to the Counselling
Channel's Niall O'Loingsigh about the Person Centred approach of Process Experiential Emotion Focused Therapy.
The Cognitive (CBT) Rational
(REBT) Approach to Counselling and Therapy
CBT/REBT approach is probably the most active-directive, and educative, of the counselling approaches. Here is an example
of a satisfied client describing her experience of CBT counselling for grief at the loss of her husband.
This book offers both a wide range of critical perspectives from around the world, and substantial
responses to them. It represents the first attempt to engage in print with the controversies and complexities that have exercised
- sometimes painfully - the therapy and counseling world, as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) has risen to such cultural
prominence as Western governments take a serious interest in the psychological therapies as instruments of public policy-making."Against
and For CBT" will be essential reading for psychotherapists, psychoanalysts and counselors of each and every approach
who are concerned with understanding the phenomenon that is 'CBT and its discontents'. It will be core reading both on IAPT/CBT
and contrasting modality training courses that wish to encourage critical engagement with the meaning and cultural context
of therapeutic help in the modern world.Professor Andrew Samuels writes: 'This welcome new collection - provides us with many
cogent and convincing arguments for, at the very least, questioning the epistemological underpinnings and the methodological
validity of the 'evidence-based' ideology in which CBT and its supporters have become accustomed to basking - This splendid
new book - promises to open up a crucial and long-overdue dialogue, and introduce the associated 'battle for the soul' of
therapy work itself'. Professor Stephen Palmer writes: 'CBT is constantly developing , aquiring and integrating new ideas,
many underpinned by research, and adapting to the requirements of the day. Unlike some approaches, it is not moribund, nor
held back by dogma. Its commonsense, pragmatic approach will continue to have wide appeal, regardless of how it is viewed
within the counseling and psychotherapy professions.
Long before the REBT approach
was created, in the period 1957-'62, by Dr Albert Ellis, a highly creative form of counseling and therapy was created by Dr
Eric Berne. This was Transactional Analysis (TA), which took Freud's concept of the 'ego' and broke it down into some existential
states, which he called the 'Parent', the 'Adult, and the 'Child', ego states. Berne understood human functioning in
terms of social transactions, and the measure of neurosis was the nature and intensity of the psychological 'games' that an
Therapy, (created by Professor Ed Jacobs at the University of West Virginia, by integrating REBT, TA and Gestalt Therapy),
is a highly active form of counselling and therapy. This is how Ed describes the work of the Impact Therapist:
"There are a number of different ways to be impactful using Impact Therapy. Impact therapists
help clients clarify their issues, help them increase awareness and understanding, and help them discover important things
about themselves. Impact therapists also give support, provide encouragement, and give permission. Also, impact
therapists help client make decisions or help them stick with a decision once the decision has been made, and they help clients
dispute their irrational and self-defeating beliefs. The impact therapist is always thinking about what the best way
is to make the session helpful and impactful". Page 54, Impact Therapy, by Ed Jacobs, Florida: Psychological
Assessment Resources, Inc.
I have been trained in REBT/CBT, plus
TA, behavioural, psychodynamic and humanistic processes (thirteen systems in all) - and my counselling and therapy work was
supervised by Dr Ed Jacobs (for three years, up to February 2011).
I see my work as a combination of
an empowering relationship and a teaching/learning encounter. For some schools of counselling, the relationship is primary.
‘Pilgrim (1997) describes psychotherapy as a
“type of personal relationship entailing a series of negotiated meetings containing conversations" (p. 97). The
central feature of psychotherapy is defined by Holmes and Lindley (1989) as "..... the use of a relationship between
therapist and (client) - as opposed to pharmacological or social methods - to produce changes in (thinking), feeling and behaviour".
These more universal definitions tend to focus upon the relationship. A definition reflecting the unique social role of psychotherapy
is offered by Smail (1987). He describes it as a situation where people are offered the rare opportunity to pursue the truth
about themselves and their lives. This is without the threat of blame and disapproval and without the risk of offending or
hurting the person to whom they are revealing themselves. Although these definitions emphasise different aspects, all indicate
how central the relationship is to any understanding of the practice of psychotherapy’. Neil Scott Gordon (2000, March).
The purpose of this book is to teach the reader what stress is, and how to combat it. It is written in the form of a
self-help manual, with spaces for self-reflection exercises. However, it could also be used by counsellors, counselling students,
and interested others, as a means to learn, understand and present the CENT approach to Stress Management
in counselling, coaching and therapy contexts.
Here is an illustration of a role played
counselling session using the relational approach:
theory suggests that the quality of care given to each of us by our parents in the first few years of life determines our
'attachment style' for all future relationships - whether secure or insecure. By analogy, we can say that a client
in counselling and therapy needs a 'nurturing parent' relationship with their counsellor or psychotherapist, based on sensitivity
and concern, care and attention. It is not sufficient to relate to the client as a 'thinking machine'. Non-possessive
love is a key component of counselling and psychotherapy.
This book - which was created after the death of Dr Albert Ellis - begins by enquiring into the
case for integrating cognitive therapy and psychodynamic therapy. It is a scholarly consideration and examination of
the models that underlie the system of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT), and the ways this author gradually expanded
that system by incorporating elements of Transactional Analysis, Gestalt Therapy, and, later, attachment theory and object
relations theory. That scholarly level of the book is underpinned by the personal and professional experience of the
author. This author uses his own difficult life history to investigate and explore models of the human mind and theories
of counselling and psychotherapy which are at the growing edge of counselling psychology. However, underneath this academic
and theoretical level, there is a painful, personal narrative of childhood suffering. What you will gain from this book
is a huge infusion of creative ideas about how to rethink counselling and therapy practice post the narrative and the emotional
Byrne, J. (2010) Therapy after Ellis,
Berne, Freud and the Buddha: the birth of Cognitive Emotive Narrative Therapy (CENT).
HebdenBridge: The Institute for CENT.
All systems of counselling and therapy
are broadly equivalent in terms of outcomes achieved by clients
For a number of years, I misunderstood the implications of the findings of Smith and Glass (1977), who found
that all the therapies they investigated were "broadly equivalent", in that they each produced significant gains
for the client. So, although the results tend to be listed hierarchically, and REBT is in the second position on their list,
this variation in scores is not in itself sufficiently significant to place REBT in a league separate and apart from the therapies
lower down the list. And there is now broad consent, in some research quarters, that all the major therapies that are designed
to be therapeutic are broadly equivalent in their effectiveness. (See in particular the work of Professor Bruce Wampold). Therefore, it might be more productive to look at how and what we could each learn from the other,
rather than competing in a zero sum game.
Here is the abstract from Smith and Glass (1977)
Meta-analysis of psychotherapy outcome studies, *American Psychologist*, September 1977, 752-760:
"Results of nearly 400 controlled evaluations of psychotherapy and counseling were coded and integrated
statistically. The findings provide convincing evidence of the efficacy of psychotherapy. On the average, the typical therapy
client is better off than 75% of untreated individuals. Few important differences in effectiveness could be established among
many quite different types of psychotherapy. More generally, virtually no difference in effectiveness was observed between
the class of all behavioral therapies (systematic desensitization, behavior modification) and the non-behavioral therapies
(Rogerian, psychodynamic, rational-emotive, transactional analysis, etc)". Page 752.
their conclusion, Smith and Glass say this:
"The results of research demonstrate
the beneficial effects of counseling and psychotherapy. Despite volumes devoted to the theoretical differences among different
schools of psychotherapy, the results of research demonstrate negligible differences in the effects produced by different
therapy types. Unconditional judgements of superiority of one type or another of psychotherapy, and all that these claims
imply about treatment and training policy, are unjustified". Page 760.
In the UK there are 99 organizations
representing counsellors, and each of them varies somewhat in their emphasis on what counsellors do. Forty-six of those counselling
organizations are (or have been - directly or indirectly) in negotiations with the British government about professionalization
of the field.
One of those forty-six organizations, the BACP, defines counselling as follows:
"Counselling takes place when a counsellor sees a client in a private and confidential setting to explore a
difficulty the client is having, distress they may be experiencing or perhaps their dissatisfaction with life, or loss of
a sense of direction and purpose. It is always at the request of the client as no one can properly be 'sent' for counselling".
"By listening attentively and patiently the counsellor can begin to perceive the difficulties from the client's
point of view and can help them to see things more clearly, possibly from a different perspective. Counselling is a way of
enabling choice or change or of reducing confusion. It does not involve giving advice or directing a client to take a particular
course of action. Counsellors do not judge or exploit their clients in any way". (Source: BACP website - http://www.bacp.co.uk/education/whatiscounselling
This is a particularly 'non-directive' and 'non-interventionist' approach
to defining counselling. Much of this definition would be acceptable to many counsellors in the UK today, although clarifying
options for clients is increasingly common, and helping them to reach decisions of
their own. For example, in the Egan Model (or the Skilled Helper model) of counselling, the central questions are:
1. Where are you up to right now?
2. Where are you trying to get to?
3. What actions could
you take to bridge that gap between where you are and where you want to be?
And, again in the
Egan model, the counsellor helps the client to see beyond their 'blindspots', and to identify their resources.
And, in the Reality Therapy model, the questions are:
1. What do you want?
2. What are you doing (or have you been doing) to get what you want?
3. Let's evaluate
how well that is going.
4. Let's produce a new plan, (if the current one is not working well).
The CENT counselling approach goes well beyond this type of intervention, in recommending: meditation, critical thinking
skills training, the study of REBT and TA models. CENT also focuses on the relationship as a 'secure base' for the client;
and we use sensitivity and emotional availability as expressions of caring for the client. (See 'What is CENT counselling?, here)
addition, we have the concept of "therapy", which comes from the Greek word for "healing". And counselling
and therapy, which overlap significantly, can be said to be in the business of "healing the life" of the client.
Or helping the client to "heal themselves". No attempt to distinguish counselling from therapy has been particularly
successful, and it is best to see "counselling and therapy" as a unified field of endeavour. (See: Nelson-Jones,
2002, Essential Counselling and Therapy Skills, pages 4-5).
as Ed Jacobs says: "Impact therapists feel free to have a wide range of responses, including reflection, clarification,
questioning, summarizing, probing and teaching". (Page 61).
As practiced by Jim Byrne, counselling
and therapy (and coaching), amount to helping the client to identify the source of their emotional or behavioural problems;
and/or to refine their understanding of their practical problems; and/or to clarify their goals in relation to some developmental
challenge; and/or to overcome their emotional, behavioural or relationship difficulties or problems. To understand how he
operates as a counsellor is to perceive him as a "(relatively) wise philosopher who teaches what he has used
to heal his own life, and to gain mastery over his own affairs". But he does this with one eye on
the emotional component of the relationship with the client. And he is increasingly concerned with questions to do with
how securely or insecurely the client is attached to significant others, and how to help them to develop secure attachments
in all their significant relationships. To clarify this emphasis on feeling, emotion and affect, here is a final clip:
What is Counselling? Part 2:
Gain a certificate in CPD in Counselling Knowledge
The relationship between counsellor and client: Attachment theory in counselling and psychotherapy
Returning to the section of Chapter 7 of Dr David Wallin's book on Attachment in Psychotherapy, entitled Relational Processes and Developmental Desiderata, I want to give further consideration
to what we can learn from this section that would help counsellors and therapists to know what to do to help their clients
to feel more secure in their relationships, inside and outside of therapy.
Firstly, we can say
that attachment theory has identified what is essential for healthy psychological development of every individual:
(a) Initially, Dr John Bowlby gave emphasis to the idea that the parents should be accessible
to the child at all times of need; and:
(b) Later on, he emphasized that parents must be responsive
as well as accessible. (This change was prompted by the research findings of Mary Ainsworth, who described the importance
of the parents' sensitive responsiveness to the child's nonverbal signals).
Secondly, when babies
receive the attention they crave, they prove to be less needy than those babies who do not receive sensitive responsiveness
when they cry. From this I infer that client's who get the kind of attention they need, will move on through their therapy
much quicker, and more surely, than those clients who meet with cool and less responsive therapists.
Attachment theory suggests that collaborative communication is about getting to know the mind of another human being.
(We may not consciously know that that is what is happening, and we might not use those verbal labels, but that, it seems,
is what is nonverbally, and non-consciously, happening).
The client needs to know which of their statements or actions produces which responses in the therapist. The therapist
must be transparent in showing the contingency (or dependence) of a particular response upon a particular stimulus
from the client. This is what helps the client to construct a model of ‘what is going on' in the mind of the other,
reflected in their own mind.
Fourth, it seems important to help the client to "feel felt"
- that is, to see their nonverbal affective behaviours reflected in the nonverbal affective responses of the therapist.
If the client cries, the therapist may reflect this by showing a sad face, ‘marked as' a reflection.
Therapeutic communication needs to be collaborative - or shared - as well as contingent (each stimulus is shown a
specific response; and each response produces a new reflection). In this process of collaboration and revealing the
connections between stimulus and response, the therapist must aim for a high level of affective attunement: or ‘getting
the client's emotional state' and reflecting it back in a different register.
This process of
providing affectively attuned responses to the client, which helps them to feel felt, probably depends upon intuitive right-brain
communication, which depends less on words than on reading faces and body language, and responding with a good reflection
of what is sensed. There is recent research from Germany that seems to suggest that this might be best facilitated by
the kind of ‘mindfulness' which comes from having the therapist practice regular meditation. (Footnote)
When a client gets repeated experiences of this kind of emotionally attuned responsiveness,
this may generate positive expectations of ‘feeling felt' - feeling understood and accepted by others - which may sediment
into a secure model of a sensitive relationship; a working model of secure attachment. Or, as David Wallin puts it,
"such experiences are lessons in how to have a comfortable and effective relationship - with oneself and one's emotions
as well as with others". (Page 107).
Of course, we must not create unrealistic expectations
here. Counsellors and therapists, like mothers and fathers, are imperfect and error-prone humans. We cannot always
‘get it right' for our clients. But we should aim high. We should aim to get close to understanding where
our client is coming from 5 times out of every 6; and we should learn how to track down and resolve any misunderstandings
that arise between us. Clients can learn from us that misunderstandings can be resolved, and "distress can be weathered
because it can be relieved", as David Wallin puts it.
a certificate in CPD in Counselling Knowledge
Most students of counselling, who have been
studying for more than a few weeks, will be familiar with the idea that counselling is based upon three ‘core conditions':
genuineness, empathy and non-possessive caring. (This originally came from the person centred tradition, but is now common
across the three main schools of thought in counselling and therapy).
first of these concepts is not difficult to comprehend: Being genuine means not being a fake; not being false; not tying to
be something you are not. It involves showing yourself to the client ‘warts and all'. Acknowledging that you are
a fallible, error-prone human, just like the client. And that we are ‘all bozos on the same bus!'
Non-possessive caring is a little more difficult, because it in effect calls upon each counsellor
to find it within themselves to feel a kind of love for the client: a kind of brotherly/sisterly love, called by
the ancient Greeks, agape.
But empathy is the most difficult of
the three concepts. Some counselling students feel very guilty if they are unable to feel strong feelings for the idea
of a suffering client, and they unfortunately try to manufacture a sense of being a ‘bleeding heart' by nature.
This destroys their genuineness, and adds nothing to their capacity to care for future clients.
According to Robert Bolton, in his 1979 book on ‘People Skills':
word empathy comes to us as a translation of the word used by German psychologists, einfühlung, which
literally means ‘feeling into'. It is the ability to understand another person pretty much as he understands himself.
The empathic person is able to ‘crawl into another's skin' and see the world through his eyes. He listens to others
in a non-prejudicial, non-judgemental way. He hears the other person's story as the other chooses to present it and
notes the special significance the story has for the other". (Page 270).
This ability is very helpful in counselling relationships for reasons that are made clear by Simon Baron-Cohen, in
his 2012 book, ‘Zero Degrees of Empathy':
"Being able to empathize
means being able to understand accurately the other person's position, to identify with ‘where they are at'. It
means being able to find solutions to what might otherwise be a deadlock between incompatible goals. Empathy makes the
other person feel valued, enabling them to feel their thoughts and feelings have been heard, acknowledged and respected.
... Empathy avoids any risk of misunderstanding or miscommunication, by figuring out what the other person might have intended.
It allows you to avoid causing offence by anticipating how things will be experienced by another mind". (Page 13).
Although this statement seems to mainly focus upon ‘cognitive empathy', Prof Baron-Cohen
is well aware that empathy has both a cognitive and an emotive component.
To explore these ideas further, please take a look at the three ‘bonus features' which follow.
Understanding and improving empathy
in counselling and psychotherapy training and learning
by Dr Jim Byrne
14th October 2013
In this eleven-page paper I examine some definitions of empathy, and relate them to the concepts of: good
and bad; selfishness and pro-social tendencies; emotional intelligence (including an emotional intelligence test); Counsellor
training, self therapy and personal development; Interpersonal communication and reading body language; Sympathy, empathy
and compassion (including an empathy quotient test); and finally: How to become more empathic.
2. What is empathy?
Empathy is one of the three core conditions
which were promoted in the world of counselling by Dr Carl Rogers, the creator of person-centred counselling. The other
two were genuineness and non-possessive caring (or what he called Unconditional Positive Regard [UPR]). (See Chapter
15 of Robert Bolton's (1979) book: People Skills)[i].
Bolton (1979) gives a graphic example of empathy:
"Two centuries ago, John Woolman walked barefoot from Baltimore to Philadelphia. He did it to receive
in his own body, some measure of the pain that black slaves suffered when they were forced to walk barefoot over long distances.
By putting himself in the slave's place, he better understood what slavery meant to the slave. He had empathy".
According to my dictionary of psychology[ii], empathy means: "The capacity to understand and enter into another person's feelings and emotions
or to experience something from the other person's point of view...".
I was particularly
intrigued by Professor Simon Baron-Cohen's definition:
"There are lots of ways to
define (empathy) but here's how mine begins:
...End of extract.
To download a Word copy of the full eleven-page paper, please click this
I have added two Bonus
features related to resources designed to develop your level of empathy, as follows:
*Bonus feature*: Today (16th September 2013) I have added my first 'bonus'
feature. Empathy is probably the most important personal trait of the effective counsellor. It is not easy to
know how to teach or learn empathy. My own experience has been that, in order to grow in empathy, it is important to
explore childhood experiences - our own and those of others - and to get in touch with what it feels like to be a powerless
child in a difficult world. Most counselling client contains a damaged child ego state, to some degree or other,
and it is important that we feel for that part of the client. Therefore, my first bonus feature on this page has to
be Chapter 2 of my book, A Wounded Psychotherapist: Albert Ellis's Childhood and the strengths and limitations of REBT/CBT.
That chapter is about Albert Ellis's first day at school. I hope you enjoy it. To go to the Download page, please
click the link that follows:
feature 2*: Today (18th September), I have added a new bonus feature
to Learning Resource 1. Like the previous one, this is designed to promote empathy for early childhood suffering, which
colours much of what goes on in many counselling and therapy sessions. Here are the details: Chapter 1 of Daniel
O'Beeve's memoir of growing up in Ireland. The book is titled: Kulchie
Kid: Growing up in a crazy culture. The chapter is titled, A Very Poor Beginning.
The entire bonus feature comes to 8,250 words, of which 4,000 are Dr Byrne's analytical comments upon Daniel's text.
Dr Byrne discusses: (1) The therapeutic justification for the writing of Daniel's memoir (in terms of the healing power of
writing therapy); (2) What experimental psychology has to teach us about Daniel's early childhood; (3) Attachment theory and
Daniel's early years; and: (4) What CENT theory has to say about Daniel's childhood.
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