A students reflections on studying counselling skills

Hello everyone,

I would like to share an article with you today, the article is an excerpt taken from the Institute of Counselling’s Journal ‘The Living Document’.

This article was written by a former student of the Institute of Counselling.

The article details the students reflections and thoughts on studying counselling skills and how the process has enriched her understanding of her personal life.

I hope you enjoy.

 

A STUDENT’S REFLECTION ON STUDYING COUNSELLING SKILLS

This article traces my progress through my studies with the Institute of Counselling. However it does not primarily focus on what I have learned, the knowledge I have gained and the skills I have acquired. Rather, it discusses the challenges I have faced, and it charts how my experiences have informed my learning, and conversely how my learning has enriched my understanding of my own personal life.

 

I am a staff nurse working in a unit for people with severe dementia. In the words of our psychiatrist, it is essentially “a hospice for people with dementia”. It is where clients are referred when all other care options have been exhausted. Thus, I frequently provide end of life care. This was one of the reasons I decided to explore a course in grief and loss.

 

While researching this, I stumbled across the Institute of Counselling’s Graduate Diploma in Counselling Skills. I chose this course for a number of reasons …

 

First, it offered a module in Grief and Loss Counselling; second, it provided training at a higher level than my undergraduate degree; third, I have always had an interest in, and hoped to study counselling; and fourth, it included an element of pastoral counselling. This was important to me, as I am a practising Christian.

 

During my first year, I studied two modules:

Foundation in Counselling Skills, and Grief and Bereavement Counselling Skills. On commencing the first module, I quickly realised that the essential qualities of Carl Rogers’[1] and Gerard Egan’s[2] approaches are those that underpin all elements of my nursing practice. These are genuineness, warmth and empathy. In fact, these qualities are the building blocks for all my relationships in life – both at work, and with my friends and family.

 

The second module focused on Grief and Bereavement Counselling Skills. Although the focus was on helping those who’ve lost a loved one, I found myself thinking more about how best to support families who were trying to make sense of this devastating illness, and the impact it was having on their lives. Indeed, many families grieve the loss of “the person they once knew” as dementia changes “the person they now are”.

 

I can identify with this sense of loss as my own much-loved grandma had dementia for five years. During that time, I witnessed her change from being a vibrant lady who loved to sing and dance to being a mere shadow of her former self, where she depended on others to meet her every need.

 

Gerard Egan’s model, ‘The Skilled Helper Model’ [1] was particularly relevant to my work as a nurse.

 

For example, when supporting loved ones I frequently find that the problems they present me with are not the core issues. This model helped me to explore and identify ‘what was really going on’ beneath the surface.

 

A case which illustrates this is a lady who was finding it hard to come to terms with her husband’s illness, and move him into long term care. By applying Egan’s model we were able to uncover that the key issue for her was actually guilt. Specifically, guilt that she had let her husband down, guilt that she had failed in her role as wife, and guilt that she could no longer cope with caring for her husband. Over time, she was able to work through these issues, using different counselling techniques and tools.

 

For example, we used Force-field Analysis to help the wife decide whether it was better for her to care for her husband at home or whether long term care would be more appropriate. This also helped her deal with her negative guilt feelings.

 

During my second year, I began to study Couple and Family Counselling Skills. This was a challenging module for me as both of my parents are alcoholics, and as a child I witnessed and experienced things that no child should see or experience.

 

Thus, studying the material highlighted my own need to address buried issues that I still needed to work through in an honest and open way. This was often very difficult for me. From a professional perspective, this experience showed me how important it is for a counsellor to work through issues that could interfere with the counselling process and relationship. That can help alleviate the likelihood of transference and counter- transference occurring.

 

When I started on this second module, I didn’t realise how useful it would be to my work as a nurse. I had viewed studying families as a means to an end: it was simply a module I had to complete to fulfil the requirements of my graduate diploma.

 

Although I frequently worked with my patients’ families, developing family and couple counselling skills seemed largely irrelevant to my job. However, I soon realised that my assumptions had been wrong, as studying a Family Systems Approach helped me better understand the dynamics within the family unit. This was reinforced by my research for an essay which detailed the benefits of using Systems Theory in the field of palliative care.

 

Studying this module proved to be challenging in other – unrelated- ways as well.

 

I suffer from severe asthma which is usually kept under reasonable control. However, during this time it became more problematic. I also developed polyarthalgia which was difficult to treat because of my asthma. In addition to this, I am a carer for a close friend. As her health deteriorated significantly, this increased the demands on me.

 

Although this was proving to be a very tough year, my module leader, Neil, was able to support me, so I managed to make it, and complete the work.

At present, I am working on the final module: Crisis and Trauma Counselling Skills. I have always found this area interesting. I am also aware that people facing crises have acute and serious needs.

 

In terms of my personal situation, shortly after commencing with my third year module I was admitted to hospital because of my asthma. There, my consultant gently shared that there was nothing more medicine could offer me. This was devastating news as I had always held out hope – but now that hope was gone. I returned home left to deal, in whatever way I could, with the impact that this news had had on me.

 

My consultant is excellent; however, I felt let down as there was a complete lack of emotional support in dealing with the news. I know my experience is not unique, and I really feel that counselling could offer a lot to people who are coping with a long term illness. Although the health service can offer us partial support, there is definitely a lack of holistic care.

 

On top of these concerns, a good friend passed away while I was preparing my first essay for the module. I felt heartbroken as the loss was sudden-yet many failed to understand the very real impact it had on me. To be honest, in some ways it felt silly as my friend was not a person: it was my guinea pig, Prince Harry. I had adopted this lad from a rescue centre. He was in terrible condition when I took him home – but he had thrived and blossomed into a cheeky little character. Hence, I was very attached to my pet. What made this so hard, even though he was in pain, was the guilt I experienced over ending his  .

 

The death of a much- loved pet is frequently underestimated and dismissed by many. As I prepared this article I spoke to several people who had lost their pets. All described it as a devastating experience, and one person likened it to ‘the loss of a limb’. Many described the same emotions as those associated with the loss of a human friend. However, they sensed few people understood how they felt, dismissing their grief as an overreaction. This is something that counsellors should note as often a strong bond of trust and love exists between a much loved pet and its owner. Hence, the loss of a pet can be devastating.

 

I am almost at the end of my studies now, and I can look back and say I have enjoyed it immensely. It has presented me with many intellectual challenges and life has added its own as well. It has certainly been hard work and has required me to juggle and prioritise my time and responsibilities. However, I have developed my skills and increased my knowledge.

 

I also believe I have grown as a person, and become much more confident. I am now considering my future options as I would like to move into an area of  work that is less demanding physically. That would accommodate my health issues-but also allow me to use my skills and knowledge to help other people in a meaningful way.

 

When I complete this course, I will embark on the Diploma in Youth Counselling. This should help me in my volunteer position as the children’s advocate in my church. I am sure this new course will bring further challenges, as well as new opportunities for developing my knowledge, skills and qualities as an individual and a counsellor.

 

References

[1] Egan, G. (2010). The skilled helper (9th Ed.). Pacific Grove, CA:

Brooks/Cole.

[2] Rogers, C.R. (1995). On becoming a person: A therapist’s view

of psychotherapy. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co.

 

I hope you found this article interesting and insightful, remember you can let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

My next blog post will be posted in the next few days.

Thanks.

Best Wishes.

Ian.

http://www.instituteofcounselling.org.uk/

Counselling training and online courses

 

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Benefits and Limitations of Group Therapy

 

Being part of a group can enable you to receive insights from people who are close to your situation and can enable you to express/share your thoughts and opinions.

 

Group therapy can be an effective treatment for people.

 

Group Therapy
Group Therapy Session

 

Group therapy is a type of therapy that involves therapist(s) working with several people at a time, often 6 to 12 people who experience similar problems. Unlike individual therapy group therapy offers people the opportunity to socialise with others within a supportive and safe environment.

 

Group therapy can often be used alongside individual therapy and medications. It can show people that they are not alone in their situations and can give them the opportunity to meet others and socialise, which in some cases may be something that is lacking within their lives.

Group therapy can be carried out within community centers, private practices or mental health clinics.

 

How do People often Perceive and React to Group Therapy

 

 

Group Counselling
Group Therapy Counselling

 

Many people can feel intimidated by the idea of group therapy and feel nervous about being around and sharing intimate thoughts and details with others. Many individuals may find it difficult to share their thoughts on a one-to-one basis with a Counsellor or therapist never mind an entire group of people that they may previously have never met. The fear and stress of contemplating this can be overwhelming for some.

However, many people who initially felt agitated about group therapy can often become more comfortable within a group after a couple of sessions. It is also up to the person how much they would like to reveal about themselves to the group. The more the person is willing to open up and share about themselves, the more valuable feedback and insights from other members they will receive.

 

Group Therapy
social anxiety in groups

 

Sometimes the cohesion between group members and the psychological security of the group can enable and encourage people to express themselves and make clear the support that they need from others.

 

So what are the Benefits and Limitations of Group Therapy

 

Group Counselling
Group Counselling

 

Benefits and Limitations of Group Therapy

 

Some of the benefits of group therapy are as follows:

 

Group therapy can promote social skills:

Group therapy can enable you to interact with others and build your communication skills through participation within the group. Individuals who have experienced increased loneliness can often find these social interactions beneficial, life-enhancing and rewarding.

Self reflection and awareness:

Groups can teach you things about yourself that you may not have previously been aware of. This self awareness can be learned from listening to the group’s feedback.

 

Group Therapy Session
Group Therapy

 

Support and encouragement from a wide range of people:

Group therapy facilitates individuals receiving support and encouragement from a wide range of people. Individuals within the group can also observe what others are going through by acknowledging their struggles or issues, this can help them feel less along.

Group members can serve as role models:

Seeing others cope successfully with their problems can help group members feel encouraged about their recovery and in some cases be inspired. As people begin to recover they can then become role models for others. This can form a culture of hope, support and motivation.

 

Group Counselling
Group Therapy Session

 

Observe behaviour:

The benefits to the counsellor or therapist of conducting group therapy is that they can see exactly how individual members react and behave to others within social interactions. Group therapy sessions can give the counsellor or therapist a clearer understanding of how each individual behaves, interacts and responds to others within social situations to a greater extent than if this was simply expressed individually by the client, within a one-to-one session.

Safe environment:

Some people can begin to feel safe and secure within the group and therefore be more confident to display natural behaviours and express themselves more readily.

 

Some of the limitations of group therapy are as follows:

 

Group Counselling
Group Therapy Session

 

It can make people uncomfortable:

Group therapy sessions can become very intense and as a result of this can be more uncomfortable for some members, which could result in individuals feeling too uncomfortable to continue with attending group sessions.

 

Loss of trust:

Trust within therapeutic environments is very important, often clients will have to feel some trust towards a practitioner before ever attempting to disclose sensitive or/and personal information about themselves.

It may be much harder to develop trust with all the individuals of the group at the same time as the individuals would have to develop trust with a number of individuals they may not have developed personal relationships with.

 

Group Therapy
Group Counselling

 

Clashes between personalities:

In groups there will often be a variety of people who have different personalities, with some individuals having markedly different personalities than others. One example, might be that some sensitive or/and introverted individuals may feel intimidated by other individuals who are very assertive or speak loudly and frequently, this can often be interpreted or misinterpreted by others as ignorance or aggression. Another example, might be that when the group is sharing their thoughts there is a difference of opinion and viewpoint, this can often result in disputes between group members who have a different moral or ethical stance on an issue that is raised. Some individuals opinions on a matter can contrast with the values of another group member.

 

Some individuals can interpret rejection:

An individual can feel less of a bond with a therapist if they are in a group. Some individuals may have experienced rejection in their past or are currently experiencing perceived or actual rejection within their lives, they may experience social anxiety when being around others and in some occasions may have low self esteem, this may result in some individuals being highly sensitive to perceived or actual rejection from the group, which could make them feel uncomfortable, upset and anxious and in some cases could cause an angry reaction and outburst.

 

Group Therapy
Group Counselling

 

Limitations regrading privacy:

A person who is invited to take part in group therapy may feel a loss of privacy. Some people may not feel comfortable discussing past or present issues, feelings, thoughts and opinions that they feel are personal and that they are sensitive about. Some individuals may feel much more comfortable discussing such issues and feelings in the privacy of a quiet room with one individual, in which they have built trust and a bond with.

Large group discussions could also cause issues regarding confidentiality.

 

Social Phobia and speaking in front of a group:

For individuals with social phobia it might be difficult to speak in front of a group of people. For people who have experienced a significant amount of real or perceived rejection, the group may remind them of this and thus enhance these feelings of rejection.

For people who have experienced trauma and/or abuse then discussions about these issues that were traumatic to an individual within the group could trigger the feelings and thoughts of and related to this event for these individuals.

 

Group Therapy
Group Therapy

 

Individuals who are experiencing severe depression or who are currently in crisis or are suicidal would more than likely not be able to interact and function within this group to the extent that a group member would need too in order to gain benefit from the group. This is because they are not at that time in a strong enough psychological state to do so.

Summary

 

Group therapy can provide an excellent support system for some individuals and can give them a place to share their thoughts and opinions, they may also build important relationships within group therapy sessions that could provide them with a support network in which they can turn too in times of distress.

However, group therapy can be a bit overwhelming for some people who experience social anxiety or are experiencing significant distress related to psychological difficulties.

The effectiveness of group therapy and whether an individual would be best suited to group or individual therapy will depend on the previously stated factors. Some individuals may benefit greatly from group therapy and some people will not.

The Use of CBT within Schools

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) in schools.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy CBT in schools.

 

CBT Within Schools

 

It has been argued that the use of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) in schools could reduce a variety of issues that pupils within schools might experience, some of which include, anxiety levels, self esteem, anger, depression, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorders (OCD) and post traumatic stress disorders (PTSD).

 

The need to improve the mental health of children and adolescents is increasingly being viewed as a priority in many countries around the world due to well documented health risks and the impact that mental health can have at a macro level upon economies and societies if interventions to address mental health issues are not applied early on.

 

cognitive behavioural therapy CBT in schools
cognitive behavioural therapy CBT in schools.

 

Teaching and training school staff and lecturers in CBT techniques may therefore, have an important impact upon the psychological health of children and adolescents and address issues early on, thus helping some children and adolescents with their mental health, emotions and behaviours in later life.

 

 

Research on Child and Adolescent Psychological Health

 

According to research for the BBC School Report half of teenagers cope alone with their mental health. Research for the Children’s Commissioner for England suggested that more than a quarter of children referred for mental health assistance received no support.

 

cognitive behavioural therapy in schools.
cognitive behavioural therapy in Schools

 

Research has also shown that the number of schools in England seeking help for students from CAMHS has risen by more than a third in the last three years. The NSPCC’s childline service has also reported a 26% increase in the number of counselling sessions with children regarding mental health related problems over the past four years with many pupils only getting help when others have perceived they have reached a crisis point.

Statistics from freedom of information requests from the NHS have also shown that the number of referrals to mental health services by schools rose by almost 10,000 from 25,140 in 2014/15 to 34,757 in 2017/18, more than half of these were found to be for primary school children.

 

Anxiety and children
Anxiety and children

 

Recently there has been much discussion on the impact and extent of poor mental health within schools. some articles have reported that four in five teachers (78%) have seen one of their pupils struggling with a mental health problem with one in seven cases involving the pupil suffering to the extent that they are having thoughts of suicide or displaying suicidal behaviours. Many reports have shown that less than half of those affected were able to access CAMHS care that could have helped them in their recovery.

 

Four in ten (40%) teachers believe the need for care has grown in the past year, 52% believed family difficulties were contributing and 41% identified bullying and exam stress as causes of emerging mental health problems. It is often teachers who witness the effects of bullying, family difficulties and exam stress on pupils. Many teachers have called for urgent support to tackle these issues.

A Department of Education spokesperson said that they want all pupils to grow up feeling healthy and have access to the right psychological support when they need it.

 

Children anxiety
Children anxiety

 

 

Introducing CBT Lessons Within Schools

 

Introducing CBT lessons within schools could enable children and adolescents to manage their emotions and replace their anxious or/and distressing thoughts with more helpful ways of interpreting and thinking about events.

 

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy within schools
Therapy within schools

 

Research has shown that anxiety prevention programmes given to children aged 9-10 within schools would be effective in reducing anxiety symptoms, according to research by The Lancet Psychiatry. It can also help pupils develop problem solving skills to cope with anxiety causing events and situations. Research has shown that anxiety is very prevalent in young people’s day-to-day lives as well as being a factor in increasing risks of poor mental health in later life.

 

 

Approaches to Introducing CBT Lessons Within Schools

 

CBT lessons could be introduced as part of the school curriculum. Another approach to introducing CBT lessons with schools could be training teachers and school staff to deliver CBT techniques and exercises.

One other approach might be to have professionals come into schools to talk to children and provide materials and online informational resources.

 

The benefits of CBT within the classroom.

 

CBT could help a child who may be suffering due to negative situations that have occurred in their lives and improve their ability to rationalise, cope with, focus and recall information. CBT would not just help children with issues they are already encountering but may also help them to preempt future difficulties.

 

CBT could help pupils to cope and respond differently to difficult issues that they face within their lives. If children can carry these techniques on to adulthood then this could help them to become well-rounded individuals.

 

Therapy within schools
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy within schools

 

Materials being widely accessible within schools would also give some children and adolescents an understanding on why they feel and behave in the way that they do, therefore helping them to deal with their emotions which may be upsetting and confusing to them. This may prevent thought patterns and emotions manifesting into future psychological difficulties.

 

Summary

 

Much research suggests that CBT could have a significant benefit to the psychological health of both children and adolescent pupils. The use of CBT techniques and exercises early on within a child or adolescents life could provide them with tools that could guide and help children and adolescents to cope better with events they perceive as stressful and confusing in both their current life and in their later life.

 

Due to the significant benefits of CBT upon young lives within society it could be argued that CBT should be an important contribution to the school curriculum within both primary and secondary schools.

 

I hope you enjoyed this article.

If you have any questions then please leave these in the comments section below.

 

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A Beautiful Mind and ‘Poet’s Corner’

Hello everyone

This is the article ‘A beautiful mind’, followed by two poems from the ‘Poet’s Corner’, published in ‘The Living Document’ edition Autumn 2010.

Enjoy folks.

 A BEAUTIFUL MIND

We’re all susceptible to mental health concerns. This is certainly true as we approach the twilight years. But there are steps that we can take to minimise the risks and to keep on living a full and healthy life.

 

Here are ten ideas to keep your mind alert.

  1. Maintain an active lifestyle: Include stretching and walking in each day’s routine; take the stairs – not the lift; cut the grass and prune the shrubs.
  1. Eat a balance diet We all know the benefits of eating more raw foods and cutting back on fatty and sugary snacks.
  1. Exercise your mind: Sudukos, crossword puzzles, word searches and card games have all been shown to shake up those grey cells. Learning something different – a language or a skill – will also keep the mind agile and alert.
  1. Spend time with other people: Make sure you make the effort to catch up with your friends and to call or to visit people in your family. Making new friends is highly rewarding as well.

5.    Don’t forget to schedule annual checkups with your doctor: Prevention and early detection of health issues can add many quality years to your life.

 

  1. Be a volunteer: The more we give out, the more we get back. There are mental and physical benefits to this.
  1. Don’t worry; be happy: A positive attitude is linked to good health – and to happy, fulfilling relationships as well. Forgive and forget… and live each day to the full.
  1. Think about buying, and caring for, a pet: Pets can fill the days and hours with companionship and warmth. They’re usually fun to have around and are a source of endless joy.

 

  1. Fill your life with laughter: Laughter relieves worry and blows the blues the away. It helps us get life in perspective and renews our sense of fun.
  1. Don’t be tooproud, or afraid, to ask for help: We all need support and a helping hand at times.

 POET’S CORNER

 BEAUTIFUL OLD AGE

By D.H. Lawrence

 

It ought to be lovely to be old

to be full of the peace that comes of experience

and wrinkled ripe fulfilment.

The wrinkled smile of completeness

that follows a life lived undaunted and unsoured with accepted lies

they would ripen like apples, and be scented like pippins

in their old age.

Soothing, old people should be, like apples when one is tired of love.

Fragrant like yellowing leaves,

and dim with the soft stillness and satisfaction of autumn.

And a girl should say:

It must be wonderful to live and grow old.

Look at my mother, how rich and still she is! –

And a young man should think: By Jove

my father has faced all weathers, but it’s been a life!

AFTERSHOCK

By Kirsten Bale

 

The pendulum sways

The piano still plays,

Yet my heart can’t help but break

And my head begins to ache.

The message floats in bold

Of his body growing cold

Lying doomed now to decay

While the sky wears it’s best grey

All the warmth I’d grown to know

Lies frozen deep below

A flaming love snuffed out

Leaving anguish, pain and doubt

The sun has not ceased to shine.

But its radiance is lost in time,

The world, like a stream, moves on,

While my world and my future are gone.

 I hope you found this article and the two poem’s of value.

If you have any questions then remember you can leave these in the comments below, I can also answer any questions you have.

Thanks.

Please “Like and Share” it.

Best Wishes

Ian.
www.instituteofcounselling.org.uk

 

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