A career as a counselor can be incredibly gratifying, as it allows you to impact the lives of people of all ages profoundly. You can guide them through various issues, ranging from interpersonal, situational, vocational, and educational, and build their resilience to help them tackle such matters independently.
However, while a job as a counselor may be rewarding, it also requires immense dedication. Counselors need to always be on their best behavior, as they encounter people from various backgrounds with traumatic stories. These people may often come from backgrounds different from yours, and they may have beliefs you disagree with. Therefore, a counselor needs solid skills to adapt to every new situation and treat each client with the same degree of respect and empathy.
If you’re a counselor looking to brush up on your skills, there are numerous ways to do so. Below, we’ll discuss the top four ways to improve as a counselor.
Continuous professional development is an essential prerequisite of becoming a successful counselor. Therapy is a field that keeps evolving continuously, and you need to stay updated with the latest research and treatment protocols to treat your patients effectively. As you study, you can continue to improve your practice and address better the cause of your patients’ distress.
Getting a professional degree is the best way to boost your expertise and specialize in any chosen field. You can specialize in either clinical mental health counseling or school counseling. Both areas allow you to work with vulnerable communities and help them immensely in their professional and private lives. An online master’s in counseling can help you brush up on your professional skills and serve your clients better.
Brush up your micro-skills
Micro skills are more important than you realize when it comes to counseling. You need to pay close attention to conversational dynamics to connect with your client and get them to open up. Micro skills such as focusing on your client, having relaxed yet attentive body language, paraphrasing, questioning, and summarizing are essential micro-skills. These can help immensely in building the therapeutic alliance.
Therapists with a warm, comforting presence have a much higher success rate than cold or neutral counselors. These skills, coupled with empathy and unconditional positive regard, allow you to build a good rapport with your client, which helps you address any presenting issues. They help you have much more open communication with clients so that you can treat them faster.
You may not realize it, but self-care is vital to improving your skills as a counselor. As discussed earlier, counselors face different situations and problems with their clients daily. Therapist burnout is extremely real and can interfere heavily with your ability to treat clients effectively. You may start to see increased transference in your work, which is incredibly detrimental to your client. Furthermore, it can leech into your personal life and affect your ability to connect to your life and the people around you.
Taking some time off for self-care can help you re-energize and return with renewed vigor to the job. It’s not uncommon for therapists to seek counseling themselves to help them deal with job stress. If you feel counseling isn’t what you need, taking a hiatus to focus on yourself can help immensely.
Often, counselors have specialized skills to treat specific issues like marriage counseling, addiction counseling, abuse-related counseling, or more. You may encounter a client experiencing marital problems because of the abuse they faced as a child or someone who resorted to drug abuse due to deep-seated grief.
It’s essential to branch out and deal with the underlying issues influencing your client’s problems. Sometimes, the presenting complaint may indicate that the underlying causes have gone unchecked far too long. You can thus increase your flexibility by training in various types of counseling to provide clients with holistic treatment. Additionally, you can also learn multiple therapeutic techniques that align better with clients of all beliefs. CBT may not be the best option for everyone, so it’s essential to explore the possibilities.
The end goal of any therapeutic relationship is to boost self-efficacy and independence in your client. You want them to be able to adapt to any new situation and come out stronger. However, you can only do so when you have adequate skills yourself. Taking on board these tips can help you understand your clients better and treat them much more effectively. As a counselor, you encounter people when they’re at their most vulnerable, so you must cater to them in the best way possible.