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.

 

Institute of Counselling

 

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For Relief From Addiction, Tap Into Your Creative Side

Hello everyone,

Here is an article by a guest blogger.

I hope you enjoy.

It’ll make you feel better in so many ways, and that’s why therapists are adding a bit of creativity to their addiction recovery programs: to help patients achieve a greater sense of well-being that goes beyond abstinence. Whether it’s a strum of the strings or a brush to the canvas, the arts heal your damaged psyche and enrich your life physically, mentally and spiritually. Here’s how.

Health

This is the basis for good health. Difficult situations in life, such as being laid off, getting dumped or struggling with an addiction, can lead to stress, which has physical effects such as high blood pressure. That, in turn, causes even more stress. Creativity ends this vicious circle, as it brings peace of mind and helps you become energetically engaged with your body, according to A Lust for Life, a website devoted to well-being.

Tranquility

When you play an instrument, you focus your ears and eyes on what your hands are doing to produce a specific sound. This is a form of mindfulness, or being in the moment, in which nothing outside of you and your music matters, and that includes those worries and anxieties that you’ve been dragging around all day that are compounded by the pressures of readapting to a sober life. You can gain the same benefit from the visual arts.

Release

Artistic expression allows you to let go of the troubles that have been weighing on your mind. Painting is especially therapeutic for some people in addiction recovery. The Treehouse points out, “Whether it’s watercolor, acrylic, or oils, painting is a wonderful way for those suffering with addiction to cope. Not only is painting a quiet, soothing activity, it allows an artist to bring out whatever emotions they’re dealing with onto the paper or canvas and leave it there. Because drugs and alcohol can dull a person’s emotions, painting can bring you back to yourself, little by little.”

Self-Esteem

Start with plucking a string while you tap your foot to the beat. Now, add another string to the mix. Then, place your fingers on the fingerboard, and add new notes to the composition. The next session, you’ll build even more complexity, and as your skills grow, you’ll learn to play songs in their entirety. Do you see how that works? Little by little, you become better and better. That’s how you accomplish things, and accomplishment is how you build your self-esteem.

Structure

Imagine yourself in front of the canvas for the first time, making your first tentative brush strokes. Seeking the same release of negative energy, you come back to the same place at the same time the next day to add to your budding work of art, but this time, with a steadier hand. You’re gaining skill, but also creating a routine, one that’s invigorating to your mind and spirit. This adds structure to your life, which you need to overcome the negative habits you developed in your previous life.

Positivity

“Express yourself in some way you enjoy on a regular basis, just once a day, and benefit from a more positive state of mind,” says a doctor writing in Psychology Today, citing research in which over 600 people were surveyed on their artistic endeavors and the positive and negative emotional responses they felt. The study also revealed that creativity increased happiness in their relationships as well as positivity in the workplace.

Playfulness

There was a time when you were full of hope, before the weight of the world came crashing down on your shoulders. That child is still there inside you, waiting to reconnect. Art offers a way to reach them. Children are masters at creativity, naturally diving into lumps of clay and pots of fingerpaint to bring their imaginations to reality, and here you are doing the same thing, adding a dash of playfulness to your life. “Nothing is more important than creative play through imagination. Never stop playing, and never stop imagining!” says writer Carmela Dutra.

Painting, sculpting, music – any of these creative arts can be added to your recovery efforts, whether in-patient or outpatient, 12-step or holistic. Talk your therapist for some suggestions, or begin your personal vision quest with a trip to the music or art supply store. Either way, it starts with you.

Image via Pixabay.

I hope you enjoyed this article.

You can post any questions or thoughts in the comments section below.

Thanks everyone.

Ian Morrison, Marketing Manager, Institute of Counselling.

https://www.instituteofcounselling.org.uk/