Management & Leadership

Understanding the true purpose of counselling

Jul 26, 2017
Purpose of counselling

Stop for a minute and think. Why do you want to be a counsellor?

Of course, your answer to this question is uniquely yours. But it is quite probable that it fits into one of two moulds. It could be that you have in mind your own needs. Maybe you feel that being a counsellor will give you satisfaction. Perhaps you think that counselling will add a new quality and richness to your life. Or perhaps you are not thinking about your own needs at all. You may want to become a counsellor so that you can satisfy the needs of other people.

Most counsellors are indeed very caring people and helping others is a crucial part of their motivation. However, it is important to remember that even if you are satisfying other people’s needs, you will also be satisfying your own needs. You will, for example, get satisfaction for yourself out of caring for others. This might not seem important right now, but it is, because if you are not careful, your motivation for becoming a counsellor may negatively affect the way you approach the role.

It is for this reason that any discussion of the essential skills needed for counselling should begin with a look at what counselling actually is – and what it is not.

COUNSELLING IS a process of short- and long-term goal setting. IT IS NOT about giving advice

Of course there is a time and place for the counsellor to offer an opinion or make a suggestion, but counselling is effectively built on the idea that, most of the time, people have the potential to make good decisions but are too overwhelmed or confused, or have insufficient self-awareness or support, to be able to identify or act on what, at some level, they already know. Paradoxically, even though the client may ask for advice, the counsellor offering his or hers to the mix can actually be unhelpful.   

COUNSELLING IS about facilitating the next step of growth. IT IS NOT about fixing things

The aim of “fixing” someone, or making him or her do or feel something, not only puts the client in a passive role, it also puts too much responsibility and power in the hands of the counsellor, violating the premise that counselling is collaborative and client focused. It also undermines the belief that the client’s sense of autonomy and personal responsibility needs to be honoured. In this sense, the act of suggesting and persuading is actually disempowering.

COUNSELLING IS about fostering the strengths of others. IT IS NOT about making others feel better

For those who have been drawn to a helping role because they want to alleviate suffering, this last point can be particularly difficult. The irony is that clients sometimes have to experience an even greater amount of pain than they were aware of initially in order to heal. Instead of aiming to make the client feel better, the goal is to facilitate him or her in being better, which in turn may eventually lead them to feeling better.

Considering a career in counselling? The South African College of Applied Psychology offers a wide range of counselling courses, from a Higher Certificate to a full-blown Bachelor of Psychology Degree. Graduates who have studied counselling at SACAP can build meaningful careers in areas where having a robust understanding and knowledge in psychology, as well as applied counselling and communication skills and an ability to work effectively with individuals and groups, is valued. For more information, enquire now.

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