Psychotherapy is a very intimate relationship between two people who otherwise may not have anything to do with one another. It is therefore important that there is a good fit between the client and the therapist especially if a therapy is going to be long term. By incorporating thecore components of the helping relationship into the counseling session, the chances of a successful relationship are increased.The helping relationship is the basis for individual therapy.According to Alexander(2000) there are seven different components that are core conditions of the helping relationship, each with its own distinct purpose and meaning to the success of the treatment. These components the author identified as: Provision of empathy, Respect or positive regard, Genuineness, Warmth, Immediacy, Cultural awareness and Gender awareness.These core conditions of the helping relations between a therapist and a client are cognizant that counseling is not telling, directing, advising, or reassuring, rather, it is respecting the client and assisting him or her in a process of self-discovery. When the core conditions of the helping relationship are employed in a counseling endeavor, the client is empowered to find his or her own solutions, and this is the best approach to counseling.
In psychotherapy, incorporating the core conditions of the helping relationship have been shown to improve the efficacy of a therapy as treatment option.When carrying out a counseling session, it is important to incorporate the seven components of the helping relationship into the session. A case worker’s or therapist’s ability to communicate the core condition strongly influences the extent to which a client is willing to enter into a cooperative relationship with the therapist or the extent to which therapist-client interactions will be characterized by hostility, miscommunication, mistrust, indifference, and lack of mutual courtesy. That is to say, what is accomplished in counseling is dependent on the quality of the relationship between the counselor and the client. The core conditions of a helping relationship are meant to create a climate of safety for the client and areconscious that client-therapist relationship is more important than advice.
This paper will present five journal entries, each of which will focus on different component of the core conditions of the helping relationship: Concreteness, Respect and Positive Regard, Genuineness, Warmth, and Provision of Empathy. This will be achieved in the context of a therapy treatment process with Mr. Hawes following his release from prison and his reintegration into the community.
Empathy is the ability to perceive and communicate accurately and with sensitivity the feelings and experiences of another person. It involves being an active responder rather than a passive listener. As a process, empathy involves attempting to experience the client’s world and then communicate understanding of and compassion for the client’s experience.In exercising empathy, I as the therapist must focus intently on the verbal and non-verbal cues presented by the client, Mr. Hawes, and continuously share with him my understanding of what he has and is communicating. The focus in empathy is on tuning into the clients feelings and communicating my understanding. The content of the client’s message is not ignored.Empathy goes beyond the facts, circumstances, and events of the client’s life and conveys an understanding of how those circumstances uniquely affect the client.
In exercising empathy in building a helping relationship with Mr. Hawes, I will build trust and openness and this will have the overall effect of helping establish rapport between him and me. I can demonstrate empathy by: paying attention to Mr. Hawes’s verbal and non-verbal cues; communicating an understanding of his message; showing a desire to comprehend; discussing what is important to him; and referring to his feelings during counseling sessions. Exercisingthese aspects in our counseling sessions will assist me in helping Mr. Hawes integrate back into the community with minimum effort, and with the feeling or perception that what he is going through is normal, and other people have gone through the same experience, but most importantly, that I am with him during each step and I understand his experiences.
Warmth refers to a therapist’s communications of respect, acceptance, liking, caring and concern for the client. It involves valuing the client as a person, separate from any evaluation of his or her behavior or thoughts. This does not mean that therapists sanction or approve thoughts or behaviors of which the society may disapprove. Rather it means that despite such thoughts and behaviors, therapists are able to communicate verbally and in their actions that they deeply prize their clients as people.
While all human beings have a need to feel liked, accepted and respected, it is particular important for former inmates to feel accepted, liked and respected by not only the community, but also their caseworkers or therapist. Most released convicts fear or mistrust the social service system as a whole and caseworkers or therapists as individuals.The helping relationship will never be established if I do not communicate respect for the client’s potential.In Mr. Hawes case, I can demonstrate warmth by showing commitment to ensuring that he reintegrates back into the community with minimum effort, by developing and showing him empathy, and by communicating warmththrough acceptance, liking, caring and showing him concern. I can also highlight his strengths and suspend any critical judgment.
Genuineness refers to a therapist being himself. This means that at any given moment a therapist is congruent in what he says and does, non-defensive, and spontaneous. Genuineness does not mean being totally honest with clients, as it could prove to be harmful to clients and the therapist-client relationship. It may alienate the client and cause him to be angry, defensive or resistant. Rather, therapists need to be aware of their feelings and at the same time, respond to the client in a respectful manner that opens up rather than closes communication.
Genuineness will contribute to the helping relationship with Mr. Hawes by reducing the emotional distance between me and him and by helping Mr. Hawes to identify me as another human being similar to himself. I can demonstrate genuineness by: being myself and not taking on a role or acting contrary to how I believe or feel; making sure that my non-verbal and verbal responses match; and by using non-verbal behaviors such as eye contact, smiles, or sitting forward in the chair, to communicate trustworthiness and acceptance. I can also express genuineness by being able to express myself naturally without artificial behaviors and by being non-defensive and using self-disclosure.
Positive regards involves respecting the client regardless of differences in values or differences in world view. That is, no condition is set upon the client’s behavior and experiences. This core condition dictates that I keep the client’s agenda in focus and I become competent and committed to the client. It involves making it clear to the client, Mr. Hawes, that I am for him. I should not rush to judgments but rather assume his goodwill. Respect is a vital link between the therapist and the client. It is communicated when the therapist shows commitment, understanding, and spontaneity. According to Alexander(2000) therapists whose communication shows warmth and understanding have the greatest success in helping.
However, it is worth noting that positive regard does not necessarily and must not be confused with agreement. Instead, it is an attitude of valuing the client as a unique and worthwhile person, even if I disagree with his behavior. It means I provide Mr. Hawes with an overall sense of protection, support, or acceptance no matter what is divulged to me.
Concreteness, also referred to as factual forming, involves giving detailed and specific attention to the customer’s problems. In a therapy session, concreteness is experienced as specific, accurate information. The material used by the therapist must be personally meaningful and relevant to the client. Being specific is important for the reason that the therapist stays attuned to the client’s feelings and expressions which results in greater accuracy on the part of the therapist and helps the client to focus on the problems at hand. Any misconceptions can be readily clarified. This component of the helping relationship also serves to ensure that the client attends specifically to problem areas and not to digress away from the task at hand.
These core conditions are essential to developing a positive therapist-client relationship.
This paper has presented five journal entries, each of which has focused on a different component of the core conditions of the helping relationship as highlighted by Alexander (2000). The journal entries have been crafted in the context of the target client, Mr. Hawe who has been released and is integrating back into the community.
In conclusion, establishing a good relationship with the client is an important step in establishing a helping relationship in the counseling process.It is therefore, imperative that the therapist ensures that there is a climate of safety for the client and there is good fit between the client and the therapist. This can to a large extent be achieved by incorporating the core conditions and components of the helping relationship into the counseling session as the chances of a successful relationship will be increased as well as the success of the treatment.
Alexander, R. (2000). Counseling, Treatment, and Intervention: Methods with Juvenile and Adult Offenders. Belmont: Cole: Cengage Learning.
Schnellbacher, J., & Leijssen, M. (2008). The Significance of Therapist Genuineness From the Client’s Perspective. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 49, 207-228.
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