Basic Counselling Skills

This article attempts to cover some basic aspects of what counselling is about. The article aim at someone that consider seeking counselling, or know someone that is receiving counselling, or someone that 'just ' are interested in what this whole thing is about.

It must be emphasised, though, that counselling is a wide and complex field, and many other approaches than those presented here and at Starbridge Centre, each with their own areas of success and shortcommings, are out there, which to choose must be an individual decision.

Some definitions: Counselling: Giving advice. Helping to clarify issues. Often short term treatment. Psychotherapy: Uncovering, transforming or releasing blockages, often of an emotional nature Often longer term treatment Spiritual healing: Higher qualities channelled through the law of resonance

The Law of resonance: A vibrating object will cause other objects to vibrate if these other objects harbour the same vibration as a potential possibility

Who are we? A human being is a part of the whole called by us the universe, a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of our consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of understanding and compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.

Albert Einstein, here from Consciousness, vol 8 no 2 winter 1998

Basic counselling skills (Basic, as in fundamental): Ethics Compassion Listening Grounding, integrity and centeredness Body awareness and body language Understanding Witnessing Silence

Compassion: In short compassion could be described as the ability to feel for other people We would not bother to help if we did not have compassion, or what we did would not be because of compassion, but to obtain something. (For example power, success, self reassurance etc).

Compassionate listening: Listening in such a way that the other person feel heard and understood.

Question (To Thich Nhat Hanh): In your new book "Anger," you give an example of "compassionate listening" as a tool to heal families. Can that tool be used at a national level, and if so, how would that work? Answer: This past summer a group of Palestinians and Israelis came to Plum Village, the practice centre where I live in southern France, to learn and practice the arts of deep listening and loving speech. […] The group of Palestinians and Israelis participated in the daily schedule of walking meditation, sitting meditation, and silent meals, and they also received training on how to listen and speak to each other in such a way that more understanding and peace could be possible between them as individuals and as nations. With the guidance and support of the monks and nuns, they sat down and listened to each other. When one person spoke no one interrupted him. Everyone practiced mindfulness of their breathing and listening in such a way that the other person felt heard and understood. When a person spoke, they refrained from using words of blame, hatred, and condemnation. They spoke in an atmosphere of trust and respect. Out of these dialogues the participating Palestinians and Israelis were very moved to realize that both sides suffer from fear. […]. The same situation now exists between the American people and people of Islamic and Arabic nations. There is much misunderstanding and lack of the kind of communication that hinders our ability to resolve our difficulties peacefully. […].

Interview of Thich Nhat Hanh, here from http://www.silkworm.org/thich_nhat_hanh.htm

Compassion: Dalai Lama writes: Since compassion and a good heart are developed through constant and conscious effort, it is important for us first to identify the favourable conditions that give rise to our own qualities of kindness and a good heart, as well as the adverse circumstances that obstruct our cultivation of these positive states of mind. It is therefore important for us to lead a life of constant mindfulness and mental alertness. Our mastery of these faculties should be such that whenever a new situation arises, we are able to immediately recognise whether the circumstances are favourable or adverse to the development of compassion and a good heart. By pursuing the practice of compassion in such a manner, we will gradually be able to alleviate the effects of the obstructive forces and enhance the conditions that favour the development of compassion and a good heart. Dalai Lama, from the World of Tibetan Buddhism,

Here from article in Southern Crossing July/August 1995

What does it mean to understand someone? The notion of "understanding" is often used when the person ˜understanding has a theory accounting for these feelings Many people would by "understanding" mean that they can identify with the feeling, they believe they have experienced something similar. But did we hear what the other said, or were we off into our own fantasies after the first trigger word in the other persons story.

The Art of Not giving Advice: Although many Astrologers [and we might include “counsellors, psychologists, friends, etc], would likely consider it one of their primary duties to give specific advice to their clients, and although many people no doubt think they are going to an astrologer [etc] for advice, I have some serious reservations concerning the practice of too glibly advising someone what to do or what not to do. First of all, we must ask ourselves, honestly whether we really know what a particular person should do. As Jung Wrote: It is presumptuous to think that we can always say what is good or bad for the patient. Perhaps he knows something is really bad and does it anyway and then gets a bad conscience. From the therapeutic, that is to say empirical, point of view, this may be very good indeed for him. Perhaps he has to experience the power of evil and suffer accordingly, because only in that way can he give up his Pharisaic attitude to other people. Perhaps fate or the unconscious or God call it what you will - -had to give him a hard knock and roll him in the dirt, because only such a drastic experience could strike home, pull him out of his infantilism, and make him more mature. How can anyone find out how much he needs to be saved if he is quite sure that there is nothing he needs saving from?

Jung: Civilisation in transition, vol 10, Collected Works, here from Stephen Arroyo: Astrology Karma and Transformation p. 245

Silence and understanding: A story: A few months ago I was in a bakery in San Diego to get some bread. I looked through the glass window and I saw a tiny little boy sitting on the curb. He looked VERY sad. I just had to go out and sit with him. I sat there about half an hour without saying a word. I didn't move close to him, because I just knew in here (indicating intuitive quadrant), that if I came on too fast too soon, he would take off. After half an hour I said, short and matter of factly, something like, Its tough. He said Uh huh. After another fifteen minutes I said something like, That bad? He said I'm running away from home? After another five minutes I said again, THAT BAD? And without a single word he lifted his T-shirt up, and his whole chest - I dropped my jaw - his whole chest was covered with burns from a hot iron. Front and back. All this was symbolic, nonverbal language. I can sit for forty-five minutes you see, like a dog catcher, and I really care and sit with them and give them the space they need to share with me.

Elisabeth Kybler Ross: Death is of Vital importance p. 19

Grounding and Integrity:

Grounding: Ability to face what is. Integrity: Coming from one's own mind, not from patches of other's minds. Ability to maintain ones own standpoint without loosing respect for other standpoints

Grounding and integrity - Psychologically speaking: That the individual is able to be present and partake in everyday life with its duties and joys.

Ungrounded Psychologically speaking: Inability to be present and partake in everyday life.

Grounding and integrity Spiritually speaking: Openness for the higher with the integrity of the mind intact .

Ungrounded Spiritually speaking: Do as you please and lament the consequences.

Spiritual and or psychological ungroundedness will also show up as physical ungroundedness, cold feet or hands, lack of balance.

The law of resonance: A vibrating object will cause other objects to vibrate if these other objects harbour the same vibration as a potential possibility The law of resonance explains that a certain vibration will start a similar vibration in objects around it, if these other objects latent harbours the possibility for the same vibration. An example is the two tuning-forks: If you start a big tuning fork on a wooden base in one end of a room, and have a similar tuned big tuning fork on a wooden base (amplifier) somewhere else in the room, the tuning fork that you did not touch will start humming, even if untouched, sparked only by the vibrations from the first tuning fork.

In terms of human receptivity, this means that if somebody harbours a quality or problem that we to some degree harbours ourselves, we will resonate with the person, and knowledge of ourselves will thus help us knowing something about the other person. A consequence of this law, the law of resonance, is that to give nice sounding advice that does not resonate harmoniously with our own true living, will not help, or will at least be impaired by the resonance from the parts of us that is not living these advices.

This does not mean, however, that it is a good idea to share our own private matters, let alone shortcomings, with clients. It means that if we lie by giving advice that is not true to our own way of living, we cause confusion .

Transference: An important concept in analytical psychology is transference. It is the projection onto the analyst of feelings and ideas which are derived from introjected figures or objects in the patient's past, commonly parental figures. The patient repeats and re-enacts the past relationship with the analyst. The transference may be a positive one (falling in love) or a negative one (hostility and hatred). By analysing the transference, unconscious patterns become conscious to the patient. Counter-transference occurs when the analyst projects his or her own unconscious content onto the patient.

Hyde and McGuiness: Jung for Beginners

It is our experience that the concepts of transference and counter transference is very important, clients will project hidden feelings, agendas and sometimes sexual fantasies on the therapist. and there is a great risk that even a accomplished therapist now and then will project his or her stuff on the client.

When we act from projections, we are not conscious of the truth, confusion and misjudgements are most likely to happen.

In our supervision groups we train the ability to 'witness' ourselves, the only chance we have of picking up these projections by ourselves, but for people that work professionally, some level of supervision is somewhere between highly recommendable and a sheer must, if debilitating projections is to be avoided .

The art of listening: In trying to communicate with others, we should always watch our motives. If under the guise of seeking understanding our real intent is to thrust our own ideas down their throats, our motive is impure, and hence wrong. We should always sincerely attempt to understand others, setting aside momentarily our own viewpoints to identify with the other person's thinking. We have to do this if we are to communicate successfully with others. Always keep your mind open. When someone says something that is foreign to your own particular personality or way of thinking, do not be close-minded or permit your prejudices to influence your understanding. Listen calmly, willingly, and respectfully. In this way you may learn something valuable from others whose views and background are different from your own.

Sri Daya Mater, president of Self-Realization Fellowship From SRF Magazine

You can learn more basic counselling skills by signing up to our online counselling course for free, just click here and enter your email in the box to the right to learn more about counselling each week in your inbox.

Sign up to our improving human relationships newsletter!

Simply enter your name and email address below to get our insightful newsletter about better understanding and improving your relationships both at home and in the office delivered straight to your inbox each month.

Name:
Email: 

*** We hate spam as much as you do, in fact we probably get a lot more of it than your average internet user, so we will never send you spam, or give, sell or otherwise disclose your email address to any third parties. You can easily unenrol yourself from our courses and completely remove yourself from our database at any time. ***