WHAT MAKES AN EFFECTIVE COUNSELOR
Thinking about what makes an effective counselor, I cannot help but to think of fresh lovely ingredients that make a good hearty soup. There are many factors that make up an effective counselor, however, for a counselling process to be efficient, it does not rely solely on the counselor alone. The therapist and client perform an equal part in the therapy process using interpersonal relationship aimed to deepen client’s self-understanding that may motivate them to make changes in his or her life. Therefore, when I think about a counselling process, I think of a musical orchestra – involving me, the counselor as a conductor, the clients as musical instruments, and their often non-unified stories as tunes.
If you have ever watched an orchestra, you would notice that the musical instruments and tunes are the ones that make a centre attention. The conductor has great responsibilities, too to set rhythm, unify tunes, listen critically, manage the dynamics and pacing of the music so that the sound of the ensemble can be sculpted – however, conducting necessitates an understanding of the components of musical expression and the capacity to convey it so transparently that the musicians in the orchestra comprehend each other’s roles in the expression. That way, those musicians can then transfer a cohesive concept of the music out to the audience.
Similarly, a counselor holds wonderful tasks, but they are unlikely able to fulfill the tasks without an understanding of humans’ expressions and complexities. A counselling process is far too complex and mysterious to ever truly get a grip on all the nuances – therefore, the best counselors in the field are not necessarily those who are most well-known, but rather those who humbly admit they are all works in progress, striving to do better.
A quote attributed to a biographer, author, presenter, clergyman – Max Lucado cited ‘a man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd’. My interpretation of this quote is that a good counselor or therapist does not do his or her job for praise or recognition. Ideal therapists are often perceived to be someone who is outgoing, full of expertise knowledge, edict, sententious, or even didactic. The truth is that the best therapists are like the best leader – they are the ones that do their jobs unnoticed yet empower the ones they encounter. They SIT (implement Strategies, Interventions, and Techniques) in a masterful way that they are able to amalgamate the art (SIT and skills) and sciences (theories) of counselling in a way that the clients experience the transforming impact of the work.
Webber as cited in Shallcross 2012 said “great counselors provide an anchor for their clients, a place to belong, while they are in transition or navigating systems, and while they are learning to establish, re-establish their own anchors and become agents of their own change and well being”. Great counselors understand that therapy itself is a process, a journey, a making of a puzzle or tapestry. As this is what they understand for their clients, great counselors are always learning. They continuously expand their knowledge, develop and perfect the intricacies of their skills over time. They have a critical thinking about self and others, value ongoing self-reflection and see personal and professional development as aspects that together construct the essential membrane through which all other learning – theories, legalities, ethics, skills, and relationships – must filter.
Therapy process can be seen as a progression of not creating a special name for ourselves, but of uncovering the name we have always had (Rohr, 2013) – a process of exploration. Like in ‘the circle of security’ concept, we as a therapist have a role to be a safe haven, a secure base for our clients. Our clients, like a child need us to whenever possible to follow their needs. They need us whenever necessary to take charge, to be bigger and stronger, while always be wise and kind. In our relationship with them, we need to be able to foster what Siegel (2007) described as COAL, acronym for Curiosity, Openness, Acceptance, and Love – feel and recognize love as a true power. Moreover, as a therapist, we need to realize that we are the expression of God’s image and His love.