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3 Milestones in the Counseling Process

Updated: Mar 27, 2021

The counselling process is a planned, structured dialogue between a counsellor and a client. It is a cooperative process in which a trained professional helps a person called the client to identify sources of difficulties or concerns that he or she is experiencing.

According to the government's statistics, 20% of Indians need counselling at some point of their lives. One per cent of the population suffers from serious mental health disorders, while 5-10% of Indians suffer from moderate disorders.

We’ve all heard stories about counselling. We have probably heard our families or friends say that counselling is only for crazy people or that we should avoid going to counsellors unless it’s a crisis.

Obviously, it raises many doubts in our minds about what to expect from a counsellor. Though we may need someone to talk to, we are not sure about who to meet or what a counsellor does.

These doubts are valid and can only be cleared if we take some time to become aware of what counselling is and what it is not. This helps not only to clarify the myths that are attached to counselling. Morever, everyone has a right to know what happens in the counselling process.

Counselling is not a magical or mysterious service that is provided but a very real and people-oriented service. It is a process in which the relationship formed between you and your counsellor helps you develop more awareness and understanding of yourself.

Any process takes time. Initially, much of the counsellor’s time is used to understand your story and look at things from your perspective.

Throughout the counselling process, the counsellor tries to avoid giving suggestions or advice. Instead, your counsellor’s job is to act like a mirror and reflect back to you your behaviour, thoughts and feelings in a way that helps you understand them more clearly and sometimes from a different perspective. What you choose to do with this understanding is completely left up to you.

The counsellor provides you with a safe environment to open up and explore your self without the fear of being judged.

In many ways, this gradual process produces longer lasting results than any advice or solution-giving because you learn to look at your problems from a different perspective and learn the skills to solve them on your own.

Such learning comes in handy while dealing with your past, present or future problems.

Listed below are the steps that actually occur when you meet a counsellor to help you understand what counselling is all about.

  1. We make the choice to go to a counsellor.

  2. We go to a counsellor after finding him/her online or through word of mouth.

  3. The counsellor and the client meet.

  4. This is the stage in which a counselling relationship is built: the client and counsellor meet for a session and get to know each other more. The client decides whether they their counsellor is the right fit for them or not. The counsellor uses this opportunity to understand the client better.

  5. At this stage, the counsellor will take important details of the client (like the client’s personal, family and job history) and explain the counselling process and its guidelines. The counsellor will also establish confidentiality of the sessions.

  6. After the initial stage is complete, the actual counselling session begins. A good counsellor is someone who listens, does not judge and who helps the client feel understood.

  7. During the counselling process, the client talks about his/her problem and the counsellor asks questions and listens as the client narrates his/her story.

  8. A counselling session lasts anywhere between forty five minutes to an hour. The counsellor decides (sometimes with the client) how many sessions are necessary to help the client with the problem at hand.

  9. The counsellor and client together chart a plan of action so that they can work together to take productive action.

  10. Since counselling is a two-way process, the client also has to commit to the counselling process and what it requires him/her to do.

  11. The counsellor spends time guiding the client to arrive at a solution for the problem without advising or suggesting possible solutions. Sometimes, the goal of counselling might also be to increase self-awareness, insight or personal growth.

  12. Once the plan of action has been implemented or change has occurred which the client is comfortable with, the counselling process is terminated.

  13. Counsellors can call for follow-up sessions to check if the client is doing well and is progressing as per plan. If not, these follow-up sessions are used to work with the client some more if he/she is still having trouble functioning.

Stage 1 Or The Initial Disclosure Stage

The first step focuses on building a relationship with the client. So in simple words, it is relationship building with the client. For this stage to be successful, the Counselor should be able to empathize with the client so that the client is engaged to explore the issues affecting him. The Counselor should win over the client with his strategic convincing communication skills. Communication skills play a vital role in this initial disclosure stage.

Skills for relationship building with the client can be summarized as follows

  • Start with an introduction.

  • Make the client comfortable by making him sit down.

  • Address the client with his name.

  • If the Counseling is for addressing health issues engage the client in

  • some social conversations to make him/her anxiety free.

  • If it is for addressing professional problems let the client talk about his problems affecting him.

  • The Client should get a vibe that the Counselor is interested in his talk. Be genuine.

Stage 2 Or In-depth Exploration Stage

This stage is the stage of assessment of the problem the client is facing either professional or personal interfering with their daily life or professional targets causing despair. According to Seligman(19990), assessment should attempt to recognize the importance and uniqueness of the client. The key is to extract all possible information and knowledge about the client’s grievances or problems and ensure nothing is left out. Any missing link can disastrously affect the whole counseling process.

The exploration or problem assessment begins with noting down the client’s personal data, like name, age, address, marital status, occupation. This should be followed by the problems affecting the client’s professional or personal life. Also making a note of the duration of the problem, his family history, personal history is a must. This helps in joining the dots. That is to form a connection between the problems of the client and other information collected and grasped. This  gives a rough idea of how much counseling might be required and to which particular counselor the client needs to be assigned

Counselors who do not assess the problems presented by their clients are more likely to formulate wrong conclusions and non-workable counseling strategies and conclusions, resulting in hit and miss counseling. The Client may leave with the same set of problems brought to the first session sans any solution.

Stage 3 Or Commitment To Action Stage

This stage is the goal-setting stage, wherein the client with the help of the counselor identifies specific ways of problem-solving getting in the way to achieve the target. Goals are the results and outcomes the client wants to achieve at the end of the counseling sessions. Without the achievement of goals, the whole process of counseling goes down the drain.

This is a crucial stage of counseling as the goals when stated clearly help both the client and the counselor to recognize progress during the process of counseling sessions

Some of the guidelines for goal selection are summarized as follows:

  • Goals should relate to the desired end sought by the client.

  • Goals should be well defined in explicit and measurable terms.

  • Most importantly they should be in the range of the Counselors’ knowledge and skills.

  • They should be feasible.

  • They should also be consistent with the client’s mission and policies(if the client is an organization).

Thus the three-stage counseling process is a planned, progressive movement towards the achievement of a desired, ultimate conclusion.

To understand more about counselling and become more aware of this service which is beneficial in many different ways, you can avail this opportunity to seek information and help from trained counsellors at Talkitover, an organization of trained counsellors, which provides individual, couple and family counselling.

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