As you would hope, a lot of research has been conducted into assessing counselling effectiveness. If we are counsellors are offering a service, it’s right and proper that we seek to ensure that this service is providing some value for the clients it is serving.
This then begs the question ‘what does a good counselling outcome look like? Seeking to answer this, my own research into one well-used measure of counselling effectiveness (the CORE-OM rating scale questionnaire) indicates an inherent bias in which the practitioner’s perspective is favoured. In other words, what constitutes counselling effectiveness is defined by counselling and medical practitioners, rather than the clients these professionals seek to serve.
I sought to redress this balance by speaking to clients, all of whom have had a counselling experience (but not with me, I should add). I explored with them their experience of counselling and this is what emerged:
The counselling space is a unique one. It enables clients to talk about issue they may never have been talked about before, or only at a relatively superficial level. In the past the dialogue around an issue may have been restricted to an internal one. This uniqueness is also anxiety-provoking as it is unclear what the process might lead to, what it might reveal, and can evoke feelings of fear around losing some control of one’s current way of being, however unsatisfactory this might judged to be. A trusting and comfortable relationship with the counsellor is a pre-requisite for this ‘opening up’ and disclosing process to develop, as is a perception of the counselling process as boundaried and safe.
An effective counsellor is thought to be one who provides care and support to the client, and who also actively engages with the client as a person during the course of the counselling work. He is someone who makes no judgement of who the client is, but who also takes steps to challenge the client’s sense of herself, and the perspective she has on the world in which he finds herself. He is also someone who is careful not to impose a structure on the space that exists in the counselling room, allowing the client to fill and explore the space as she sees fit and for them to act, behave and respond with spontaneity.
There is an acknowledgement that counselling can often be a difficult process but necessarily so. It can be difficult in that the client can feel disorientated, vulnerable, exposed and physically drained. Just how difficult the work is fluctuates from session to session or indeed, moment to moment. There is often an emotional element to the work which again makes the work difficult for the client. However, despite this difficulty, the client often feels unburdened and lightened by the counselling process, and as a result of their own endeavours.
Read ‘So just what is a good counselling outcome (Part 2)?’ to get the full picture as to what the client’s counselling experience can look like.