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Why counselling students need to learn about process

Why counselling students need to learn about process
Monday 30th September 2019

Ever wondered how counselling happens? Do counsellors have a plan for each session?  Or is it driven by gut instinct?

Morling College places a great emphasis on teaching counselling students to ‘trust the process’ more often than not. There is both skill and intuition involved in this approach.  But what does trusting the process mean?

To help explain, here’s a little story..

A story about process 

You’ve walked into the counselling room not knowing what to expect.  I want to make it as comfortable as possible for you, yet I’m also wondering if I can invite you to take a journey with me?  Maybe a bushwalk?  Or a caving adventure?

So, grab your backpack. I’ve got mine too.  We might need some tools for the journey.  Bring what you’re comfortable to carry.  Bring what you’re familiar with.  I’m not quite sure what’s ahead of us so I’ll bring a variety of tools with me in my bag. 

But I want to follow your lead.

You may not have realised, but this journey is your journey.  Your experience.  You’re the expert on this terrain. Did you know that?  You’ve trodden this before, even though it may seem unfamiliar in parts.  Some of the trails you know well, some of the caves you’ve hung out in before.   Show me where you’d like to start.   

I feel like a curious detective on this journey with you.  Like a little child, seeing and discovering the world for the first time. Stopping to notice the flowers on the edge of the path, the interesting sticks on the path, the markings on the rocks.  

Would you pause with me sometimes to explore these markers?  I want to understand what these places mean to you, what importance the differing aspects of the landscape mean to you? Perhaps you haven’t stopped to notice these before.

And perhaps as we stop to pause, reflect and consider, I might need to use some of the tools I have in my backpack.  Together, this might take us on new trails or down underground tunnels.  It might take us in new directions, maybe even places that have been forming and laying the foundations for the landscape that you are more familiar with.

Perhaps you’ve had some idea about these other tunnels and places before, or perhaps they are completely new to you.  Either way, that’s ok. Would you consider going down these ways with me?  They may seem scary at first, but we’re here together. 

We can take our time. 

If you need to pop back over to those familiar trails again. That’s okay too. 

And then, if you trust me, and you want to change the current landscape somehow, then I’m here to start that with you.  You may discover along the way that you have some of the tools you need already.  Perhaps you might realise that they’re here waiting for you on the journey, or perhaps I can share some of my tools with you to use and shape as your own. 

As you gather tools, you might want to revisit the familiar trails and see what happens with the new tools.  Or you might feel like trying out a completely new path. 

It’s up to you. Just remember, I’m here with you, I’m here for you and I’m here for as little or as long as you like.

Some of the story explained

The idea of emphasising process in counselling to new and developing therapists places the importance back on the relationship with the client.  Process helps zero in on what is meaningful to the client and what might be driving the ‘content’ on the surface, such as the behaviours, the thoughts and the issues that we can see. 

Deeper, more long-lasting change can happen when counsellors invite clients down the lesser known paths that have laid the foundations for what may be occurring on the surface.  Some of the counsellor’s tools may include noticing not just ‘what’ the client says but ‘how’ they say it (Crago & Gardner, 2019).  It may include noticing tone, body language, paying attention to emotions, key words that are mentioned, recurring relational patterns and other themes.

It takes the pressure off the therapist as being the ‘expert’ and allows therapeutic relationship to develop, which has also been shown to be one of the key markers around seeing change in clients.

Subjects offered at Morling College through the Masters of Counselling continually teach the importance of the use of process in counselling and developing the skills needed to connect with clients at this level.    There is also a great emphasis on personal development so that using process in counselling becomes not only a skill, but an art. 

If you’re interested in learning more about counselling, our Open Night on the 4th November, 2019 is a great chance to chat with our Counselling and Chaplaincy staff to see what it might look like for you to study at Morling College. Find out more and register your interest here: https://www.morling.edu.au/events/open-night-2/ 

Kath Gambell

Written by Kath Gambell

Kath is an Individual and Relationship Counsellor at the Ezra Clinic, Macquarie Park, as well as an Adjunct Tutor at Morling College. Follow online @lightrisingcounselling on Facebook and Instagram.

Kath Gambell's Blog

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