People who use counselling skills in their work

We have already noted that many people, including doctors, nurses, ministers of religion and teachers, use some counselling skills as part of their work. Doctors, for example, listen to their patients, and they usually try to understand the complex messages which people in distress often wish to convey. There is a growing emphasis on the need for inter- personal skills training among health professionals, but even when this is undertaken, doctors and others cannot devote the necessary listening time to individual patients. In addition to this, doctors frequently tell their patients what to do, and the central focus in doctor/patient encounters tends towards the factual rather than the emotional aspects of problems presented. Smith and Norton (1999) highlight this dimension of doctor/patient interaction when they state that doctors are trained to transmit information. This transmission of information is usually factual in nature, and may as a result neglect affective or emotional aspects of communication. This last point is applicable to people working in other areas of health care too. Despite the limitations just described, however, it is still the case that many health professionals, carers and others use what have come to be known as counselling skills in their daily work. A list of professionals in this category would include the following:

Q psychologists
Q welfare workers
Q career counsellors
Q teachers
Q nurses, health visitors and midwives

Q occupational therapists and speech therapists
Q social workers
Q physiotherapists
Q ministers of religion
Q voluntary and youth workers.

This represents only a selection of the many areas of work in which some counselling skills form an integral part of the professional’s role. All of these people are likely to benefit from further training. The reason for this is that even when their interpersonal skills are quite well developed, professional people gain a great deal from further skills training and the process of self-development, which is a fundamental part of counsellor training.

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