Thursday, 29 January 2015

Counselling - has REBT lost it's relevance?

Counselling is more than having a chat with someone though in itself this can be helpful, therapeutic even. But like any discipline there needs to be purpose to any endeavour. What is it we want to achieve for the client and what's in it for me? Can we cause more harm than good or not benefit the other at all? What is counselling any way but two people talking about something? 

What do we want to achieve? The goal will always be to help the person you are working with to develop insight and to have the tools to work on themselves as they are getting on with their life. Is it telling people what they need to know or do they know already? These are things the counsellor will consider as the session/s unfold.

Is there a payoff for me? Yes there are many but it is important to know what they are. If our main purpose is to feel good about ourselves we are not going to be useful. There are some self appointed experts who seek out opportunities to practise empathy on others asking 'how did that make you feel?' and 'it makes me (the counsellor) feel so proud when you ...' or 'I like it when you ...' It is not about how the counsellor feels or what she particularly likes that is most important here and can your client 'make' you feel anything? Of course people can be well intended but good intentions are not what counselling is about and they certainly won't help your client!

What is the counsellors approach based on? My tool of choice is REBT (Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy) developed by Albert Ellis. It is a constructivist approach to counselling based on the premise that we have developed habits of thinking that underpin the behaviours and emotions we experience in response to daily life events. Ellis' ABC Theory of Emotional Disturbance model helps us teach this philosophy to others. Other peoples theories and ideas make up my counselling toolkit but Ellis' REBT is my foundation model of choice. Why? Because it works!

We have our base theory (REBT) but what skills do we need to develop to effectively support the client? Counselling skills are developed, honed with practise over time. Reflective listening, identifying issues of concern, working out what personal philosophies the client has constructed that are not helpful or indeed are harmful (Cherchez le should as Ellis would say) and activities to work on to achieve therapeutic aims. The list can go on! Is Ellis relevant? I say a resounding yes to that. Ellis' work is as relevant as ever if not more so!

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