There are many different approaches to counselling and psychotherapy. My training was ‘integrative’ allowing a variety of techniques and ideas within my counselling practice, but my main inspiration is Carl Rogers’ approach of ‘person centered therapy’.
I believe that it is the quality of the counselling relationship, rather than any particular approach or technique which creates a truly therapeutic and beneficial experience for the client. I aim to achieve certain ‘core conditions’ within the therapeutic environment, based on the work of Carl Rogers. Rogers felt that therapy could help clients where the counsellor is able to effectively demonstrate empathy and unconditional positive regard. This means that the client will feel truly understood and is never judged or criticised. In this way a counselling relationship is very different from our interactions with friends and relatives.
An effective counsellor is a highly trained professional. However, they are also a genuine person and practitioner — they should never seem ‘fake’ or give the impression that they are hiding their true self behind a professional façade. This notion of congruence – that the therapist should be his or her genuine self – is an important element of my practice.
My counselling theory is based on the ‘skilled helper’ model created by Gerard Egan; it is an approach which is designed to help people “to manage their problems in living more effectively and develop unused opportunities more fully”. This approach involves working with the client’s own agenda, and their hopes, aims and objectives. It is not the counsellor’s role to advise the client about the best course of action or tell them how they should live their life.
I have a problem-focused approach. Whilst it is sometimes very important to reflect on things which happened in the past, I am also concerned with helping the client to actively explore and address problems which are occurring now, in order to make things better in the future.
Whilst some clients require long-term counselling, in many cases I feel that the best results are achieved through ‘brief counselling’ which involves the client setting personal goals and working towards these targets with support from the counselling process, over six to 12 sessions. Working within a ‘brief counselling’ model helps the client to focus clearly on what they want to achieve. I feel that it is the most ethical and effective way to work. However, the length of the counselling relationship will depend on the client’s individual needs, and how helpful they are finding the counselling process.