Last Updated on September 18, 2018
Counseling is among the few truly selfless occupations, alongside social work and nursing. Professionals like these devote nearly all their time and energy to helping patients and clients find wellbeing not just in their mental state or physical health but across all aspects of their lives. Often, counselors inspire their clients to be better, to do better and to live better. But, what if anything do clients do for counselors?
The truth is it depends on the counselor. Some counselors maintain a professional distance from their clients, doing only as much as necessary to improve their clients’ wellbeing. Others form strong connections with their clients, feeding off their energies and responding more deeply to their needs and wants.
Typically, it is the latter category of counselor that breaks through to clients and establishes lasting improvements in their lives – and it is this type of counselor who more often feels fulfilled by the work and eager to continue.
Can all counselors open themselves to inspiration from their clients? Yes, and this guide explains how.
Observation is the primary way counselors assist their clients. As they talk through certain issues, astute counselors listen and note body language and other signals of how clients feel. Using information gleaned in this way, counselors can direct clients toward insights and appropriate solutions. Thus, through observation, counselors can become more inspired.
The skill of perception is one that comes naturally to most humans, but it is one that counselors need to hone to excel in their line of work. Though it is possible to improve observation through diligent practice, it is easier and more direct to bolster perception skills in CACREP-accredited online master’s in counseling programs. Advanced counseling education equips counselors with more advanced knowledge and skill to assist clients, and online programs allow counselors to continue practicing while enhancing their credentials.
For clients to be successful in counseling, they need to trust their counselor, and trust only comes after a true and honest connection is formed. Thus, counselors should work quickly to engage with their clients and develop a relationship that can result in mutual benefit.
Unfortunately, there is no playbook for establishing engagement between counselors and clients. The truth is each client likely requires a different atmosphere and behavior to feel comfortable and be willing to engage. Thus, counselors should remain open to modifying their counseling style for each client, closely observe the client’s needs and wants and remain transparent regarding what you can offer to your clients’ well-being.
A counselor is not a judge; a counselor is not a priest. A counselor is a healthcare professional tasked with helping clients establish a holistic sense of well-being. As a result, counselors should refrain from recoiling from particular thought patterns or behaviors and instead work with clients to identify issues and find solutions.
By functioning with unconditional empathy, counselors can unlock more of clients’ emotional, behavioral and psychological processes. Reaching these places that clients often hide can result in greater success – and provide greater insights that counselors can use in their future practice.
A Few Caveats
The more enthusiastic, the more engaged and the more empathetic a counselor is, the more adept they will be at serving their clients. However, opening oneself fully to a client’s problems can be hazardous, and counselors should be aware of the risks of chasing inspiration through their work. Here are a few concerns counselors should have while they seek to offer the best counseling they can.
Clients are not tools. While clients can be helpful in revealing problems plaguing counselors, counselors should be careful not to expect anything from them. Clients seek counseling to improve their own well-being; should counselors need help themselves, they should enlist another therapist they can trust. Instead, counselors should be indirectly influenced by their clients and be glad of any inspiration they receive during the course of a client’s treatment.
Emotional exhaustion is real. A common condition plaguing the caring professions, emotional exhaustion is a disorder that affects one’s ability to empathize with others, concentrate on work and feel inspired or excited. Often, untreated emotional exhaustion leads to depression and worse mental conditions, so counselors who sense the beginning of emotional fatigue should take a much-needed break from their patients. Indeed, regularly scheduled vacations are critical for anyone in caring professions.
Counselors should never compete. The only reason a counselor should compare their knowledge and skill against another is to ensure their clients are receiving adequate service. Otherwise, there is no reason for a counselor to strive to be “more inspired” than another; this tends to commodify certain types of clients in a destructive way.