Trainee diary: Counselling Skills
How many trainee counsellors does it take to change a light bulb?
We were asked this week to jot down either a recent dream or a dream that we could recall easily. I wrote mine down quickly as it was a dream I’d had frequently as a child. It’s not a particularly pleasant dream and after I’d written it I wondered if I was a bit loopy! Anyway, our tutor then asked someone to volunteer to go up and chat about their dream in a simulated counselling session. I partly wanted to go up and partly didn’t, so I was relieved when someone else was chosen! We sat and listened to him talk about his dream. It was a vivid description. I could see clearly what was being described and I could almost picture myself there with him. We watched and listened to our tutor extracting information and emotions about what was happening in the “helpee’s” life at that particular time.
Using a dream as a starting point seemed to me to be a gentle way of approaching a counselling session, almost like a comfort blanket. Yet it can help lead to a deep and meaningful counselling session.
We were then asked to form groups of three. One of us would be the helpee, but this time two of us would be the helper, with no observer.
I had no qualms about working along side someone else in the helper role. My immediate thought was, “Hurrah! If I clam up there’s someone else there to help me!”
Initially, working as helpers in pairs seemed to work well. When my partner wanted to ask questions I sat back and listened and vice-versa. We were almost polite about it, in a, “No, you go first, no, no you go first”, kind of way!! We both let each other take control without hesitation and seemed to be on the same track as each other. We managed between us to home in on the core subjects within the dream, helping the helpee relate them to situations that had arisen in his life. We both gave our own summaries at the end of the session. I felt was a great way to close as it showed we had both listened carefully to all that had been shared in what was an unusual situation.
I felt the second session, where I was helper again, was entirely different. The dream that was described was very similar in some aspects to the first helpee’s dream, but there was a much deeper undercurrent of emotion. I encouraged her to delve into these emotions but found that each time I reached a pivotal moment my partner would then ask a more practical question, leading us away from the deeper underlying issues. I found this frustrating. Frustrating in the fact that I was heading down one path and my partner was heading in another direction. Frustrating because what I felt to be of importance wasn’t being recognised. Frustrating because once a moment had passed it was a struggle for me to try and get back to where we were. I found it difficult to remember specific things that were said and difficult to get the rapport back once the conversation was interrupted. However, this doesn’t make either of us right or wrong.
It was interesting working alongside someone else in the helper role. I now know that I much prefer to work on my own. When I’m in the helper role it’s sometimes difficult trying to keep track of my own ideas and thoughts about the subjects being aired. Often there are so many things being said it’s difficult to know which path to follow. Sometimes my mind races with questions I’d like to ask, making sure they’re appropriate. Trying to stay on track. Trying not to be distracted by my own needs and concentrating on the needs of the person sitting in front of me. When you throw another person into the mix I think it complicates things far too much. It’s a huge spanner in the works so to speak.
Perhaps there’s a joke in there somewhere … How many trainee counsellors does it take to change a light bulb? You can use two, but many hands do not make light work.
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