Trainee diary: Counselling Skills
Reading between the lines……
After a check in we were split up into groups of four. Within the groups there would be a helper, helpee and two observers. The helper and helpee were then asked to leave the room. Myself and my remaining group member were then told that we would be observing, with a twist. I was asked to make note of any thoughts the helpee shared, but I was also asked to think of (and note down) a possible imagined thought she may simultaneously have had. My observing partner was asked to make note of any emotions shared, but also asked to write imagined emotions that the helpee may also have had.
The helpee was asked to chat about her Christmas and New Year experiences. Once we began our observations I found there was an awful lot to write about. I knew at certain points that I was spot on with her imagined or unspoken thoughts. I hadn’t previously worked with her so I had to really concentrate on everything she was saying and doing. I could feel a real connection between myself and the helpee even though I wasn’t in the helper role.
After a short break we were asked to give feedback on our observations. I had written so much down I wasn’t sure where to start, but decided to go through everything. A couple of times I knew I would hit a raw spot with imagined thoughts and I was right. I felt pleased that I was able to “read between the lines”. She said that I was 95% accurate, which confirmed my feeling of empathy.
I was asked at one point, by my tutor, if I would be afraid to air the imagined thoughts during a helper/helpee session – and I don’t think I would. If they had been aired it would have led to a much deeper and more emotional response from the helpee. It would have taken her on a different route entirely, away from the subject of Christmas.
I have since realised that I use this skill frequently. Especially at work where I’m dealing with children. Does everyone do this? Do we do this naturally? Do I do this naturally or is it something I have learnt to do? Is it simply intuitive understanding? Or is it a skill we learn over time? Body language and tone are also indications of what is truly being shared. As the old saying goes, “Actions speak louder than words”.
We all read between the lines from time to time. In counselling can we use this to a client’s advantage? By doing so can we aid them in their self-exploration? Is a deep feeling of empathy necessary in order to really read between the lines? I think the answer is ‘yes’ to all of these questions.
I feel that this week has helped me to have a deeper insight into counselling and the skills we need to be successful in aiding others.
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