To achieve success in counseling there has to be an agreed upon objective partnership. It takes time, energy and effort by both the person receiving counseling and the therapist. It takes a collaborative effort by both the counselor and the individual receiving the counseling. Therapy is a commitment to make sometimes difficult adjustments in thinking patterns and behavior. Effective counseling is a two way street.
It takes a time, energy and financial commitment from the clients’ to make changes in behavior or thought patterns and then learn new ways of coping with thoughts, feelings and behaviors. It is hard work! This article will be discussing, client characteristics, therapist characteristics and treatment conditions that will help anyone achieve success with counseling.
The Four Client Qualities to Achieve Success in Counseling
Desire is the beginning of all achievements, not a dream, not a requirement, but a keen pulsating desire which transcends everything.
Some individuals will report that they need to make changes in their life but lack the motivation or drive. They will begin by seeking therapy, and indicate a need for change but will not make the effort necessary to carry out the process. Their primary goal to seek out therapy is that their life may have become so unmanageable that their life is in a state of crisis. In addition, they may also be in emotional pain over such an extended timeframe that their physical health has deteriorated.
A stressful situation may be upsetting, but it may also be beneficial. In various life situations, events may have to get worse before they get better for the change process to develop. Therefore, a crisis can be a life misfortune or calamity, but it can also be a way to making life better because it provides an incentive for personal growth and development.
Without a strong desire for change, it is less likely to occur. When a person has both the desire to make changes and the motivation to do so, this is half of what it takes to achieve success in counseling.
Belief is one of the most significant building bricks to achieving success in any venture
If someone does not believe in themselves or in what they are attempting to achieve, it becomes almost impossible to succeed in any project or task. The more people believe in something, the more they raise their chances of being successful. The concept of belief in oneself or a way seems straightforward, but there are still those who fail because they do not possess the impression that they can achieve their goals.
One reason people face serious and lasting emotional distress is that they do not think counseling or psychotherapy can help. They have seen media programs or read books that disparage individuals who seek counseling, or render counselors and psychotherapists in an unflattering manner. Some may consider counseling as for the weak and cowardly. These people fail because they have little or no confidence in the healing process of change
The successful person understands that it takes a belief to achieve a goal or task. Successful people know that a certain amount of trust needs to be placed in a health care provider. They may also examine any lack of confidence with the therapist in the beginning stage of counseling. This lack of confidence in others may have arisen from early childhood issues and be the primary source of a person’s pain.
What is predictable is for people to believe that the first therapy meetings will fix everything negative going on in life. The first few meetings often do solve problems that people are already prepared to change. However, the problems that remain after the first few meetings are the tough ones. What people want to achieve with the counselor should be clearly defined at the beginning of the counseling process. The next step is to explore a reasonable time .frame for reaching the goals and also decide on how progress will be measured
Courage is not the absence of sorrow; it is, rather, the ability to push through life in spite of adversity.
Many who need counseling will not consider it, or they look for treatment and have trouble making any adjustments in their life. They want their world, circumstances or others to change, but they are not willing to work on anything about themselves. It is surprising how much emotional pain a person can suffer, just because they have difficulty embracing the idea of change.
Many individuals have difficulty with the process of change because it can cause much anxiety getting outside one’s comfort zone. New habits, new methods of doing things, and changing thinking patterns or behaviors require energy and time, as well as courage. The person with courage is not paralyzed by the fear; they are empowered by it. Seeking help and making changes in lifestyle requires courage.
Patience and dedication unlocks the doors of imagination, allows vision, and gives us the right ingredients to turn that dream into a reality.
Those who believe “anything worth having is worth waiting for”, will continue on in the quest for change, and are the ones who will triumph over adversity. The counseling process requires such dedication and patience.
The key to achieving success in counseling is to support the course of treatment and recognize that some issues may take time to resolve as these problems developed over many years. If people possess or develop these attributes in the initial phase of counseling they will be on the path to success.
Overcoming adversity and gaining achievement is the culmination of all four attributes of Desire, Belief, Courage, and Patience. People can have the real possibility of achieving success in counseling as well as achieving any realistic goals set in life.
The Counselors Personality and Style
One key element for solving problems and learning new ways to cope is the emotional attachment or relationship that people have with their therapist. Education is taught, learning occurs, feelings are discussed and thoughts are examined in relation to feelings. However, education, learning and exploring of issues are not ideal conditions for receiving help with managing a problem. I cannot stress how valuable it is for people to connect with the therapist and pay attention to the emotional chemistry. The issue of achieving success in counseling depends on this relationship.
Another ideal condition for the counseling situation is that the therapist must perceive the client as a whole person, not abnormal, difficult, or label someone with a psychiatric diagnosis. If therapists show respect and kindness and if clients can accept these gifts, they will achieve success in managing a problem. If genuine respect and understanding are not offered, and/or if the client cannot accept the offer of assistance, achieving success in counseling is severely compromised. This means that treatment may be a waste of time, energy and resources. However, I am often pleasantly surprised, as sometimes the most resistant clients do indeed make a 180 degree turn and become most successful in managing a problem. Success in counseling does indeed relate to the relationship that people have with their therapist.
There are many rules such as those related to privacy, respecting sexual boundaries, attentive listening, and keeping the client as the focus of the discussion verses the therapist talking about their own issues. However, these are basic expectations of all therapists. What people want to evaluate is the therapist’s personality, their mannerisms and communication style. Some therapists, are more talkative than others, some use specialized techniques, some use humor, others analyze, and, some are simply too passive.
The client needs to assess the therapists respect and evaluate how much the therapist seems to care about what is being discussed. Then evaluate if the therapist is a suitable match. People deserve the best match, because, this is their time and all clients deserve the professionalism it takes to help achieve success in counseling. If the client and the therapist are a suitable personality match, the question remains as to what are the client roles in achieving success in counseling.
Why go to Counseling? What is Therapy?
Some people do not want to be in counseling because they were coerced into treatment. “My husband says I have a problem”. “My wife says I do not communicate”. “The judge says I have to have six sessions”. “My doctor said it all in my head”. These are not ideal therapy conditions, and it will take an experienced therapist to be able to help, and many do indeed benefit.
There are numerous and varied reasons why people choose to go to counseling. Some people have experienced traumatic events, which they would like to explore in a safe setting; bereavement, separation, difficult life transitions, or distressful experiences from the childhood. Others seek help with learning how to cope with specific psychological or behavioral traits which they would like to change; compulsive thoughts, difficulties with relationships or poor dietary habits. Many people seek counseling to explore a general feeling that their lives are not quite right, or learn how to cope with feelings of hopelessness associated with managing a chronic illness. However, it is not at all necessary to have a serious problem to achieve success with counseling. People may turn to counseling to develop a purpose, to find meaning in life, or attempt to stir up determination to achieve a goal.
Most people want to go to counseling to improve some problem or find ways to cope with a distressful life event. Some clients experience feelings associated with anxiety mixed with the possibility of hope in removing or finding new ways to cope with the problem. The anxiety is often about how they think they will be judged by the therapist. The hope relates to having a positive attitude about their future ability to achieve success with managing the pain.
However, all clients deserve the therapist’s time, energy, caring and respect. Every client deserves to have these conditions even if the client is carried into the office “kicking and screaming”. Clients should find a safe, private, environment and a caring human being who will listen without judgment, without an air of superiority. Find a counselor who strives to understand in a holistic fashion and from your point of view.
How to Evaluate Successful Counseling
At the end of successful therapy, clients will feel better equipped to tackle life’s changes and challenges, by developing a slightly more flexible stance on how to handle life. People can decide whether their work with the counselor is successful by assessing if they begin to gain insights about thoughts and behaviors, which may have eluded them before they entered treatment. Over time, people should be able to identify patterns in the way they behave, discover the sources and understand stumbling blocks to happiness and then create different choices! The result is personal growth that empowers change and assists people in becoming the person they would like to be in the world. Therapy is about helping people achieve their goals. People can determine whether their work with the counselor is successful if they begin to gain insights about thoughts and behaviors. Over time, clients should be able to identify patterns in the way they act, trace their sources and understand stumbling blocks to happiness that may have been unwittingly created. The result is personal growth that empowers people to manage life and enjoy positive, life-affirming relationships.
During the first few sessions, the client and the therapist are developing rapport and are preparing for the work that it takes to make changes. In order to make a permanent change it involves a healthy relationship with the therapist and this takes time. People who do not understand this will typically leave quickly and say: “I went to therapy, and it didn’t work”. They were seeking and wanting advice, not therapy and they misunderstand the concepts and principles of therapy. This explains why the same problem may pop up throughout someone’s life. Therapy is about the relationship and working through the core problem with a kind, caring, competent professional, in hopes that the same problem will not re-surface at later date in time.
Therapy values the expression of emotion. What is also significant is whether the level of expressed emotion teaches the therapist the relative importance of each issue (mild importance, moderate importance and intensely important). Using anger as an example: One client may feel angry and explode often, but each outburst displays the same level of emotional pain. This person gets a lot of relief, but that is all, not to mention it confuses the therapist! Another client may occasionally get angry, but they do mention anger whenever they feel it and they show whether the anger is high, moderate or minor. This person gets more help at solving and coping with problems because the feeling is clearly expressed and the therapist understands the issue. The next task is to explore and assist with managing or coping with the discomfort. Having an understanding of feelings and how people communicate that knowledge is critical in achieving success in therapy.
In conclusion, people can achieve success in counseling as this process can help overcome life’s challenges, regain a sense of control (feel empowered), regain happiness in life, and experience a more flexible wider range of emotional maturity. Achieving success is accomplished by exploring behaviors, emotions, life’s problems and the therapy process then builds on existing strengths.
Wishing You the Best Success in Life
Dr. Cheryl MacDonald, RN., Psy’D.
Health Psychology of San Diego