Saturday, August 25, 2012

Practice Makes Perfect

One of my strengths is my ability to empathize with others, and this will, no doubt benefit my clients. Reflecting back on the extra question posed by Dr. S. in week one, empathizing with clients facilitates their ability to find, or perhaps, regain, meaning and purpose in life. If nothing else, empathy helps us to embrace the world of the client. To reinforce this strength, I subscribe to Levitt's (2001) position that active listening supports empathetic responses. I recall Toller's (1999) belief that, as counselors, we base our craft on "the understanding that it is through the experience of being listened to, accepted and truly heard by another person that we can begin to heal some of the pain and hurt of our human existence" (p. 48-49). Those words were poignant to me and continue to be a reminder of my purpose as a counselor. Remembering too, Gloria Steinem's (1992) idea that we all crave to be acknowledged, listened to, and validated, reminds me of the simplicity of counseling...simply listening and letting the client know I care will, at times, mean more than any specific technique I employ.

Certainly, after this class, I am well aware of my shortcomings as a counselor (which is, of course, not all bad) but perhaps my greatest concern is becoming too involved psychologically. In other words, failing to leave my work at the office. I recall considering this in one of my last classes and came to the understanding that I will have to practice self care, maybe even more than the average person. Because vicarious trauma is a normal effect of counseling, especially if the counselor has ongoing exposure to extremely traumatized clients, self care is essential. Trippany, White Cress, and Wilcoxon, 2004) claim that proactively maintaining a network of support as well as a balanced lifestyle helps to minimize burn-out and vicarious trauma. Personally, I believe maintaining spiritual awareness and taking an appropriate amount of respite and relief will help to address this problem.

This discussion asks for only one limitation and for this I am thankful. Not that it is so difficult to explore shortcomings, but it is rewarding to see growth, in others as well as in myself. Certainly it is wise to maintain an awareness of strengths and weaknesses; the strengths let us help others, and the limitations encourage us to ask for help. Perhaps this is one of the advantages of perceiving ourselves as scholar-practitioners - we continue to learn and practice.

That said, Lepkowski, Packman, Smaby, and Maddux (2009) suggest even though new counselors have a fairly accurate self-assessment of counseling skills, poorly skilled new counselors may overestimate their abilities. I would agree with these authors that, for the most part, people are not generally capable of judging their own competence accurately. Thankfully, we have many hours of supervision under which we'll have extra guidance and an external constructive judgment of our skills and abilities. All the more time to re-assess and keep in mind our roles as scholar-practitioners

Lepkowski, W. J., Packman, J., Smaby, M. H., & Maddux, C. (2009). Comparing self and expert assessments of counseling skills before and after skills training, and upon graduation. Education, 129(3), 363–371.

Levitt, D. H. (2001). Active listening and counselor self-efficacy: Emphasis on one microskill in beginning counselor training. Clinical Supervisor, 20(2), 101–115.

Steinem, G. (1992). Revolution from within: A book of self-esteem. Boston: Little, Brown.

Toller, P. (1999). Chapter 3: Learning to listen, learning to hear: A training approach. In P. Millner & B. Carolin (Eds.). Time to listen to children: Personal and professional communication (pp. 48-61). New York: Routledge.

Trippany, R. L., White Cress, V. E., & Wilcoxon, S. A. (2004). Preventing vicarious trauma: What counselors should know when working with trauma survivors. Journal of Counseling & Development, 82, 31-37.

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