Counseling is different from opinion giving, sympathizing and offer to assist. They are help-oriented actions. The prime responsibility of a counselor is to use his skills in such a way to create an ambience of warm acceptance where the person in front of him feels safe and confident. One cannot solve human problems in their entirety, but an individual can be assisted to understand the problem to enable him to manage it better.
The problems are one’s exclusive property. They are one’s current liabilities—a counselor’s challenge is to how to convert those liabilities into assets. Gerard Egan writes, “Indeed, the goal of helping is not to solve problem, but to help the troubled person manage them more effectively or even transcend them by taking advantage of new possibilities in life.”(p.5)
The model prescribed by Gerard Egan in his book, cited below, describes the skills needed to work through the three stages.
Stage I: Exploration
An experienced and skilled counselor is aware of the fundamental truth that concerns his all clients: Gerard Egan writes, “In the end, of course, all of us must learn how to help ourselves cope with the problems and crises of life.”(p.3) He should not proceed in dealing with the client with the feeling that, whatever he says is correct. Good results come-forth through co-operative efforts. Active listening is the important tool. When the client realizes that he is getting full attention, he is likely to reveal all.
The steps involved in exploration are,
(1)Paraphrasing, Reflecting feelings,
(2)Using Open Questions, Focusing; helping the client to be specific: concreteness, (3)Summarizing.
Most of the clients, who come to the counselor, arrive with lots of suppressed feelings. It is a game of questions, answers and counter-questions. He will assess the factors involved in the problem and the resources needed to chart out the further course of action.
Stage 2: Finding new perspectives
The second stage is the decisive stage of investigation, and the counselor may have to put forth several not-so-straightforward questions, which may not be of liking to the client. The questions may sound personal. Having known the level of the client’s feelings, the counselor attempts the deeper analysis of them, to come to conclusions. The issue before the counselor now is to keep the communication channel open to elicit the free flow of answers. He uses various styles of communications to achieve the objective. Before preparing for the next question, he carefully analyses the meaning behind the words—does he really mean what he says, or a hidden agenda exists both intended and unintended! After skillfully tracking these common grounds, the counselor tries to find out the reasons for the mental blockages and the inconsistencies in the replies. If they are totally confusing, alternative frame of reference may be suggested so that things can be judged with a new perspective. If the situation is tough to handle, look out for further options open, including referral.
Stage 3: Action
With Stages 1 and 2 the understanding part is mostly over, the counselor now observes the client with the new perspective he has gained about the client’s personality and problems. Both of them have a better understanding. Now it is the turn of the counselor to initiate effective action to achieve the objective of the desired change. The three stage counseling model is, however, not a water-tight compartment. What is important is, to understand and follow the real issues. Counseling is a highly personal profession. Three issues are involved. Issues related to two individuals and the special problem related to that individual only.