The therapeutic counselling and counselling skills

Therapeutic counselling is an activity undertaken by people who are specifically trained in this field. It differs from many other occupa- tions and areas of work which are often described as ‘counselling’ but, strictly speaking, are not. These other areas include, for example, career counselling, financial counselling, sports counselling and style counselling. In fact, there is a growing tendency to describe any occupation in which advice is given as ‘counselling’. Therapeutic counselling does not include advice giving in its repertoire of skills, although it should be added that clients can hardly fail to be influenced by a counsellor’s attitudes, even when these are not explicitly stated.
In therapeutic counselling, the relationship between helper and client is especially significant and based on the principle of equality. Vulnerable clients may not always feel equal, but it is a principle which all counsellors need to respect and uphold. There is, moreover, no obvious conflict of interest in the relationship, and this is just one of the factors which set it apart from other working relationships. Teachers may, for example, need to discipline pupils, while nurses and social workers often give advice to the people they help. However, a distinction should be made here between the use of therapeutic counselling with clients and the use of counselling skills by other professionals in a variety of work situations. As we noted earlier, there are many people who now undertake counsellor training because they believe the skills they gain will prove useful in the work they do. Because of the training they receive, these people are well

aware that they are not acting ‘as counsellors’ in their professional roles. Instead, they are using the interpersonal skills which they have developed and refined within their counsellor training. A range of interpersonal or counselling skills will also be discussed in Chapter 2 and in subsequent chapters throughout the book. Before looking at the differences between theory and skills, however, it is useful to consider the ways in which counselling has been defined by organisations which are directly linked to it. The following is a definition offered by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy:

Counselling takes place when a counsellor sees a client in a private and confidential setting to explore a difficulty the client is having, distress they may be experiencing or perhaps their dissatisfaction with life, or loss of a sense of direction or purpose. It is always at the request of the client as no one can properly be ‘sent’ for counselling.
(British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, 2009c)

The BACP also adds that,

it is not possible to make a generally accepted distinction between counselling and psychotherapy. There are well-founded traditions which use the terms interchangeably and others which distinguish between them. If there are differences, then they relate more to the individual psychotherapist’s or counsellor’s training and interests and to the setting in which they work, rather than to any intrinsic differences in the two activities.

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