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Counseling – Elements to Develop a Successful Helping Relationship in Therapy

Introduction

Counseling practice revolves around the therapeutic constructs and counseling intentions that are meant to produce meaningful client outcomes. In order to develop or maintain a successful relationship between client and counselor, the fundamental element is ‘trust’ or ‘confidentiality’. From the point of view of client, trust to keep the counseling session confidential is the main element, while for the counselor being ‘pragmatism’ in evaluating the outcome is essential. The relationship between client and counselor other than the trust factor is based upon clear understanding of the clients’ problems.

Among the essential elements of counseling, from the aspect of counselor or therapist:

  1. To understand and classify client problems according to psychological disorders is essential (a reliable, relevant diagnostic system).
  2. A taxonomy of client personalities is necessary.
  3. A taxonomy of therapeutic techniques or interventions
  4. A taxonomy of therapists dependant upon the therapeutic style
  5. To understand circumstances, conditions, situations, or environments in which therapy is provided is essential in order to build a smooth client-counselor relationship.

A successful therapeutic relationship is dependant upon the clients’ resources and counselor’s expertise. Further, a friendly environment that could enhance counseling easily requires gathering information, exploring feelings, generating alternatives, or merely providing unconditional support thereby maintaining client’s trust and confidentiality. However some of the main elements to sustain a smooth going includes listening and naming client’s problem, meeting client expectation, establishing counselor credibility by utilising techniques for relief and client’s involvement in the therapeutic process.

In a relationship, it is essential to lead the client towards positive outcome and to develop and promote the optimistic aspect of the client. The warmer the client’s openness in the relationship with the counselor, the positive would be the client’s behaviour towards accepting the therapist. This would significantly relate to positive or productive outcomes (Bent, Putman, Kiesler, & Nowicki, 1976).

The main characteristics to which the client is looking forward during the session to the therapist is:

  • Reciprocity: through warm and friendly attitude of the counselor manifested by comfortableness, trust, openness, expression of feelings, liking, respect, positive regard, and interpersonal attributes.
  • The extent to which the counselor is engaged: is followed by counselor involvement, concentration and commitment.
  • Transference: With transference, the client responds to the therapist as though he or she were a significant figure in the client’s past, frequently a parent. Both individual and group processes use the construct of transference as a significant variable of the therapeutic relationship. Transference can be positive or negative (Thompson, 2003, p. 19).

What the client expects from the counselor is to resolve problems; build or maintain a smooth working alliance; heal ruptures; deal with dependency issues; uncover and resolve distortions. Conflict arises in relationship between the two when outcome is enhanced in the form of a problem-solving attitude on behalf of the client (Luborsky et al., 1988).

Lambert et al. (1986) found that counselors who let the client ramble are unable to initiate a successful counseling session, and failed to integrate these issues and themes into counseling contributed to negative client outcomes. According to Sexton and Whiston (1991) if 50% of the benefit of counseling does not seem to occur within the first 6 months of weekly sessions of client therapy that means both are not willing to understand or master problematic situations in of the therapy (Thompson et al, 2003, p. 23).

Issues having a negative impact on the helping relationship

Issues that can create a negative environment arise from negative competition and defensiveness is not helpful to the professional practitioner or to the client consumer. Some of the issues that uphold a negative impact upon relationship start with the symptoms of:

  1. No constructive coping behaviors with persistence of the problem,
  2. Reinforcing poor self-concept and
  3. Group division in counseling therapy sessions.

However the most common issues are:

  1. Lack of understanding of negative thoughts and behavior.
  2. Miscommunication between the client and counselor.
  3. If the client feels pressurized, due to the too-directive behavior of the counselor.
  4. Feel lack of direction on behalf of the counselor with no particular outcome.
  5. If the client feels hopeless because of the too rigid attitude of the counselor.

Rubber-band Relationship Technique

In order to reduce the tension between the relationships, this technique is effective. It allows the client to hold one end of the rubber band, while the therapist holds the other end. Both pull the rubber band. After a moment both relaxes. The counselor then asks the client, “What would happen if you choose to relax and accept rather than spending an enormous amount of energy trying to change?” (Thompson, 2003, p. 117).

Positive turning Technique

This technique is effective in replacing negative self messages into the positive. Ask the client to record all his negative opinions about himself using a tape recorder. Then by interfering and playing those messages over and over suggest him that he won’t be able to make progress if he chooses to listen to this all day. Therefore counselor must help him to develop a series of positive self-statements and tape them over the negative self-images. The counselor at this stage must encourage the client to listen to those messages regularly.

The best technique of maintaining a healthy relationship requires devotion on part of the counselor to fix in the shoes of the client and see the world through the client’s eyes. This would let the counselor see a clear picture of client’s problems and then propose solutions for him. Meanwhile the counselor must ensure the client through his actions and words about how much he understands his problems. Handling stress effectively, coping up with client’s depression and changing negative thoughts into positive attitude is what the client expects from the counselor. However this can be achieved if the counselor is aimed to help the client realize contributions to success and reduce the responsibility for failure.

Good listening characteristics mean a lot in the relationship. The most significant factor in building a healthy relationship is the assurance to the client that the counselor is also a human being like him who cares. If the counselor could make way to a normal thinking, why the client couldn’t make it?

References

Thompson A. Rosemary, (2003) Counseling Techniques: Improving Relationships with Others, Ourselves, Our Families, and Our Environment: Brunner-Routledge: New York.

Bent, R.J., Putman, D.G., Kiesler, D.J., & Nowicki, S., Jr. (1976) “Correlates of successful Psychotherapy” In: Journal of Counseling and Clinical Psychology, 44(149), 120-125.

Luborsky, L., Cruts-Cristoph, P, Mintz, J., & Auerbach, A. (1988) Who will benefit from psychotherapy: Predicting therapeutic outcomes. New York: Basic Books.