A Comprehensive Definition Of Counselling Psychology Essay

This essay will give a clear definition of counselling and give a discussion with regards to the counselling settings that make a client feel safe. The essay will so discuss the characteristic that an effective counsellor should possess and give the importance of unconditional positive regard, empathy and congruence in the counselling process. Importance of self-care will also be discussed in the essay.


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Counselling is a process that enables a person to sort out issues and reach decision affecting their life. Often counselling is sought out at times to change a crisis and help people at any time of their life. Counselling involves talking with a person in a way that helps that person to solve in a way that create conditions that will cause the person to understand and improve their behaviour, character, values or life’s circumstances. Counselling is often performed face to face in confidential sessions between the counsellor and clients. Counselling can and may take many different format to bring a person to a better understanding of themselves and others. It can be seen that counselling can be of benefit to a person experiencing problems in finding, forming and maintaining relationships.

Counselling is an umbrella term that covers a range of talking therapy. These are delivered by trained practitioners who work with people over a short or long period of time to help them bring about effective change or enhance their wellbeing. It is also a process in which a person is helped to explore the situation and find solution or answers for a problem. Counselling is a method of guidance of an individual. It helps the client to grow to a greater maturity by allowing the individuals to take responsibilities and to make their own decision ( John & Rita, 2004).


A counsellor can have a Person-centred counselling where a therapeutic relationship between a counsellor and a client is formed. The client needs to be able to talk about whatever they need to, share their intimate thoughts and explore sometimes difficult feelings. For this a client needs to feel able to fully trust the counsellor, feel safe, supported and that they will not be judged. The counsellor should work on creating the right environment in which a client feels able to look at themselves and develop a greater understanding of their own thoughts, feelings and meanings. The counsellor is not there to analyse or give them advice, but instead to be alongside them supporting them and helping to explore their own issues with the belief that the client will come to find their own answers (France, 1984). According to Sutton (1998:50-56) creating a warm and safe environment is an essential stepping-stone to building a strong therapeutic alliance. A counsellor should have a room that helps the client feel comfortable so that they can star sharing their concerns. Counsellors should give examples of opening sentences to help break the ice, as well as discussing some other important topics, including building trust boundary issues such as contrasting and terminating sessions on time. There should have the sessions in the same room that way the client will feel safe and comfortable and a counsellor should have chairs places approximately four feet apart and slightly at an angle. A small clock needs to be positioned where the counsellor can glance at it and attention should be paid to the lighting and room temperature.

A box of tissues should be placed where the client can easily reach them, a vase of flowers should be available to add some colour to the setting so that the client can feel some warmth and reflect something of your personality. Greeting the client and showing them their sit can also make them feel safe. Addressing the client by the first name can also make them feel comfortable and accepted but you should ask them how they want to be addressed and introducing yourself with your first name can also mean breaking down the barriers of inequality. The counsellors opening sentences should be empathic and their posture should demonstrate to the client that they are ready to listen. Building trust is also important for people who have been let down before so developing the skills of active listening, accurate, sensitive responding, reflecting feelings, and empathy demonstrating that you are fully present for the client can help to establish a solid foundation of trust ( Sutton, 1998).


First the counsellor should work on building a relationship. A requirement for being an effective counsellor is being able to practice and impart the skill of empathy in the client-counsellor interaction. The ability to convey a sense of confidence give clients a sense of confidence in themselves and confidence that the counsellor is directing people in the right direction. The counsellor should always be open-minded. They should not be judgemental but instead know how to give the best suggestions on how to deal with different types of situations. They need to know how to put themselves in one’s shoes. Counsellors also need to be friendly with everyone. They should never let the person they are counselling feel more down than they already are. The counsellor should also be a good listener (Gladding, 1988).

An effective counsellor should be able to relate to the person they are counselling and display a level of commitment. A counsellor should be able to inspire their client and help them see their potential. An effective counsellor should show their client that opportunities multiply and that life is a long line of opportunities. A counsellor should make their client understand that the choices they make presently will affect them in the long run and to collate what and how these choices will and are playing a role in their lives.

According to Gladding (1988:100-105) a counsellor should have awareness and understanding of one’s own self it means understanding one’s feelings, personal strengths and limitation. This would help counsellors to understand themselves sufficiently and to know exactly what they are doing, why they are doing it. A counsellor should be in good health and should not be distracted by one’s own problems. A counsellor should be open minded meaning that they should be able to distinguish between their own beliefs and values to that of their client and not force them to follow a particular value or belief system. Counsellors should have respect for their clients; they must view them as worthwhile people and treat them with warmth and dignity.

The counsellor must have assertiveness. It may be verbal or non-verbal. Verbal attentiveness involves what is expressed to the client and the way it is expressed. Allowing clients to complete their sentences is one way of verbal attentiveness. Using verbal encouragers such as “I see” are ways of demonstrating verbal attentiveness. It is also important for a counsellor to learn to alter their voice and change their volume and speed depending on the client’s reactions and situations. Non-verbal attentiveness includes eye contact, head nods, facial expression, body posture and distance.


Unconditional positive regard, empathy and congruence are the counsellors conditions needed to facilitate change. Without these conditions being present a healing relationship cannot form.

5.1 The importance of unconditional positive regard

According to Rogers (1951:55-60) unconditional positive regard is when one person is completely accepting towards another person. This is not just showing acceptance but is an attitude that is demonstrated through behaviour. Unconditional positive regard is the fundamental attitude of the person-centred counsellor towards the client: Some component of unconditional positive regards include

Respect: respecting a person in the dignity and brokenness as a person

Non-judgemental: being neither judgemental against people of different race and sex

Acceptance: accepting people in all their fullness, missing out including how they treat the relationship with you.

Valuing: embracing the person you encounter, and valuing them as a unique person.

Caring: being concerned for the person and wanting the best them

Nurturing: wanting to help the person to grow in whatever ways are open for their growth as a person

Love: experiencing the full richness of non-possessive love for the person in this relationship

5.2 The importance of empathy and in the counselling process

According to Rogers (1942:60-65) Empathy is an essential variable for engendering constructive personality change in the therapeutic process. Empathy in addition to congruence and unconditional positive regard, has achieved a consensus standing in the professional literature as a core condition in facilitating the treatment relationship in counselling and psychotherapy. Empathy is the capacity to recognize and share feelings such as sadness and happiness that are experienced by another person and it involves sensitivity to the client’s problems and being able to see things the way the client does. It involves perceiving and communicating. Perceiving is an intense process of active listening by the counsellor. On the other hand in communicating the counsellor says something that tells the client that their meanings and feelings are understood. Cultural sensitivity and knowledge of cultures different from the counsellor own are important to the effective use of the empathy. Empathy is recognized as a prominent variable in the development of a positive relationship. With an enhancement of empathy understanding, clients generally increase their level of therapy satisfaction, likelihood of compliance, and involvement in the treatment process. Being empathetic ensures you are listening and dealing with the clients concerns as they present them. You are not judging them. Empathy can assist counselors when dealing with challenging clients through

Intensity – responding to the feelings expressed at the appropriate level of intensity for example if you are working with a client. They are very agitated, about to be evicted and their mother is sick. Your response is “You are a bit upset”. The client becomes distant you have not reflected their level of emotion accurately.

Context – take all aspects into account not just word and non-verbal behaviour. A lot of people we come into contact with have multiple problems in their lives. They may behave in ways we find inappropriate but taken in context of their experience are understandable.

Selective responding – sometimes it may be appropriate to respond only to feelings or behaviour. Some clients do not respond well to discussing their feelings and in these cases it is useful to focus on more concrete elements such as experience and behaviour.

When your empathic responses have been successful it is evident from the client’s response, a nod of the head, or a positive verbal response. If a counsellor’s empathic response has not been accurate the client will indicate this non-verbally by stopping, fumbling or becoming frustrated. Being aware of these signs will assist a counsellor in relating to the challenging client (Rogers: 1951).

5.3 The importance of congruence in the counselling process

According to Rogers (1942:66-70) Congruence means genuineness. People are congruent when they are not trying to appear to be anything other than what they are. Congruence is concerned with a person’s attempt to achieve harmony in their way of being. Congruent is closely related to a number of terms such as honesty, transparency yet its meaning does not coincide with any of these.

In providing the three counselling processes the counsellor creates a therapeutic environment which enables a client to psychologically self-heal. Congruency can help a counsellor to identify a client by the way the client will be portraying themselves. In counselling process this would help a counsellor to be able to work with a person who knows their true self so it won’t be difficult to help that person to overcome the obstacles they face in life.


Self care is a way of living that incorporates behaviours that help you to be refreshed, replenish your personal motivation, and grow as a person. It is the equivalent of keeping your car filled with gas so that you are ready to go anywhere you want without being worried if the gas is enough to go a distance. As school counsellors one of the major expectations is developing prevention and intervention strategies for students. However this cannot discount the need to develop own prevention and intervention plans for self-care. Prevention for burnout might include such things as asking for supervision, promoting your own personal wellness plan including a method to refill your own emotional bucket. Develop your own professional and personal support system with not only those who support you but those who will challenge you if you are exhibiting signs of burnout. Periodic self-assessments and evaluation of life stressors is an important prevention strategy. Personal counselling, nurturing your own emotional self, evaluating personal relationships, engaging in stress management and positive recreational activities offers value in burnout prevention as well ( Gladding, 1988).

Counsellors should build a strong foundation for themselves this means spending time to strengthen themselves physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually for example daily clearing is to check and identify how you are feeling and what you are thinking. Gather quality support such as finding a community like-minded people so that they can give you support. When you are with supportive people you will feel positive and empowered. Get rid of commitments that weigh you down and use the time to do things that give pleasure. Self-care is actually taking care of yourself after a long day at work so that you can work on your inner thoughts and be able to help people with a free mind and not experiencing burnout. Giving yourself time to do all the things that mean a lot to your life and keep you happy will keep you revived and strong enough to face your client with confidence ( Gladding, 1988).


This essay defined counselling and discussed the setting that a counsellor should be at to make a client feel safe with specific reference made looking at the characteristic that an effective counsellor should possess. The essay discussed the importance of unconditional positive regard, empathy, congruence and self-care in counselling process and in a counsellors own life

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