The client knows best because it has to be that way. The whole premise of Rogers’ person-centred approach is that the client has the ability to move forward and that the role of the counsellor is to give a helping hand. He uses the metaphor of midwifery to emphasise that the client is doing the work (of giving birth) and the counsellor is ‘just’ facilitating this by guiding, along with having expertise in the theory of counselling but not in the client. The actualising tendency is that as flowers grow and turn towards the sun, so do we grow naturally towards being the most me I can be. This is not about becoming a ‘good’ person, or even becoming a better person. It is about being more me and throwing off that which inhibits my being me. C put it beautifully describing it as becoming “less at odds with yourself”.
We considered famous people and what we knew of their childhood, trying to put it into Rogerian terms. In pairs we considered a few famous politicians, all of whom demanded the spotlight (external locus of evaluation) in different ways. As one pair talked about Katie Price I realised, again, that feeling of being left out of group common culture and not wanting to belong. It’s taken until a day later to realise I thought we were talking about Katie Hopkins and have no idea who Price is, other than her being one of those irritating public figures I have no interest in.
We started going through counselling skills, considering active listening, minimal encouragers and managing silence. Again I was drawn by the parallels with mindfulness, that active listening is about being present in the moment, listening fully with all senses (preferably not smell but if needs be then that too), being aware of the client’s body language and the manner in which things are said, whether there are contradictions in body and words etc. Client must feel listened to.
Then I had my first tutorial. I had volunteered to have it early and was glad to do so. We discussed those things that had irritated me last year: my confusion over which comments I made as a listener were which type of tool and how I found myself spending more time worrying over the correct labelling of comments made rather than the impact of the comments. Also the whole emphasis on the mechanics of responses made rather than the attitude of counsellor. She dismissed most of this with this is the way the course is structured and you are assessed so suck it up for the purposes of the course and don’t worry about it. Focus on the bigger picture. I also mentioned the confusion over being non-directive and signposting. I’m still not sure, but I think that being unsure is good as it means I’m aware of the conflict. She was reassuring and did tell me to lighten up and I did walk away feeling better.
She then came and observed me as I acted as listener for the first time since the end of last term. I listened to T, to whom I had listened earlier that day in an active listening role play so we already had some contact established. She wrote like a fury throughout and I was doing my best to not consider whether I was paraphrasing, reflecting, etc. etc., but to respond as I thought best regardless of technique, to pick up on the really important things that were said and to stay with them so we could unpick. We did twenty five minutes and she did then give me long feedback. It was all good. She picked up on things I said that showed I was listening, that I heard what he wasn’t saying, that I allowed him to develop his thoughts etc. A few minor points for reflection but she basically told me I was fine. I felt incredibly reassured and immediately started worrying whether she was nice to me because of what I said in the tutorial. So i’m trying to focus on the positive and ignore the baseless worry. I also consider that I disagree with a lot of peer observations and need to have the confidence to reject some of it. I am not good at the confidence thing generally.
Our second PD was as powerful, if not more so than the first. We went back to an incident from the previous week and went over it until we had made sure that there was no residual left over feeling that hadn’t been aired. It could so easily have been overkill but it wasn’t. There was reassurance and deeper understanding. Most of all, for me there was an awareness that already we had grown closer and deeper as a group and that this was going to continue. We were not going to bother with unnecessary navel-gazing. There is a perceived trust by virtue of us being there that means we are diving in the deep end. We talked about addiction and I followed up a long silence by talking about ex1 and his eventual relinquishing of alcohol. I had very much spent the silence wondering whether I wanted to talk about him. Our facilitator facilitates, midwives us without interfering, just prodding and pausing us where necessary.
I left feeling a lot more confident than I had been in the morning and ultimately that made it a really good day.