Counsellors need qualities such as genuineness, unconditional positive regard, and empathic understanding along with a good communication, according to Sutton & Stewart (2008). To start a solid trustworthy therapeutic progress, these necessary elements are required for the counsellor to offer best to the clients (Sutton & Stewart, 2008).But a vital ingredient for the enhancement and progress of the client- counsellor relationship is the obligation of the counsellor to increase self awareness (Sutton & Stewart, 2008). Sutton & Stewart (2008) said that counselling is about helping clients develop their self-awareness. To facilitate this process, it is imperative that counsellors work towards increasing their own self-awareness (Sutton & Stewart, 2008). However, in order to increase the self-awareness, counsellors must first understand the meaning of the self and the self-knowledge and their implication in the counselling relationship. In this essay, the term self will be explained; then the self knowledge will be described using theories and finally the importance of knowing about the self and the self knowledge in the counselling context will be discussed.
Self-concept, often abbreviated as the ‘self’ , includes information about character, skills, morals, attitudes, potentials, reasons, life events, relationships with important others, possessions, and appearance (Markus, 1983; McGuire, 1984; Tedeschi, 1986 as cited in Sedikides & Strube,1997). Sutton & Stewart (2008) mentioned that the Maslow’s (1943) self actualisation theory suggested that the main objective of psychotherapy should be the incorporation of the self. Maslow (1943) assumed that every individual has levels of human needs that require satisfaction (Sutton & Stewart, 2008). Viewing Maslow’s (1943) model in a different manner is that instead of shifting from stage to stage, as in a ladder way, all the needs are being satisfied at the same time, to some extent according to Sutton & Stewart (2008). In Maslow’s (1943) hierarchy model, the different levels to enhance self awareness are: biological needs, safety, belongingness and love, self esteem and self- actualisation (Sutton & Stewart, 2008). Sutton & Stewart (2008) mentioned that self-awareness is being conscious of our physical, mental, emotional, moral, spiritual, and social qualities. These qualities make each one of us unique (Sutton & Stewart, 2008). Self-awareness leads to the discovery of the self.
Next, counsellors usually help people in seeking to improve, confirm, or measure the different perspectives, related to the self, such as the self-enhancement, the self-verification, the self-assessment, and the self-improvement (Sedikides & Strube, 1997). Sedikides & Strube (1997) viewed the self-enhancement perspective as the motivation of individual to increase their positive self-concept and to protect the self-concept from negativity. Usually, people view a way of reaching a high self-esteem by increasing their positivity or decreasing the negativity of the self (Sedikides & Strube, 1997). Sedikides & Strube (1997) considered the self-verification perspective as the persons preserving constancy between their self-conceptions and new self-relevant information. Individuals’ concern is not about satisfying the positive self conceptions, but rather to validate the existence of either positive or negative self conceptions (Sedikides & Strube, 1997). In addition, social dealings are expected if one’s self-conceptions are shared by others (Sedikides & Strube, 1997). In the self-assessment perspective, according to Sedikides & Strube (1997), persons are willing to acquire a precise evaluation of the self. People are interested in the analysis of self relevant information, i.e. the degree to which the information decrease doubt about a part of the self (Sedikides & Strube, 1997). People look for this analysis in spite of the positive or negative suggestions for the self and in spite of the information confirms or confronts the current self-conceptions (Sedikides & Strube, 1997). For the self-improvement perspective, people tend to improve their traits, abilities, skills, health status, or well-being (Taylor, Neter, & Wayment, 1995 as cited in Sedikides & Strube, 1997). Considering all these perspectives, counsellors have a better understanding of how to improve on the self, and this will help in solving the clients’ issues.
Furthermore, for a counsellor’s individual and professional development, the search for self knowledge is his/her spine (Sutton & Stewart, 2008). Self-knowledge helps in understanding the problems faced by the clients within the counselling relationship better (Sutton & Stewart, 2008). To help in the understanding of both the self-knowledge and the self, the Johari Window can be used. It concentrates on the dynamics of interpersonal relationships and human exchanges (Sutton & Stewart, 2008). The Johari Window consists of four quadrants namely: the ‘known to all’, the ‘blind region’, the ‘hidden region’, and the ‘unknown region’ (Sutton & Stewart, 2008). Firstly, the ‘known to all’ quadrant is the aspect of the self known to everyone, including the person himself/herself (Sutton & Stewart, 2008). Secondly, the ‘blind region’ is the part known to everyone but the person himself/herself isn’t conscious of, e.g. habits (Sutton & Stewart, 2008). Thirdly the ‘hidden region’ is the part that the person to know about it is himself/herself (Sutton & Stewart, 2008). Finally, the ‘unknown region’ is unconscious to both the individual and everyone (Sutton & Stewart, 2008). The theory proposes that during the process of self-disclosure and obtaining productive feedback from others, while the ‘known to all’ area expands, the three other areas reduce (Sutton & Stewart, 2008). This results in increasing the self-knowledge and the self-awareness of the individuals (Sutton & Stewart, 2008).
Finally, learning about the self- knowledge is very important for the counsellor. People usually find difficulty in understanding themselves because of the individual reasons and the design of the mind (Wilson & Dunn, 2004). Often, through conscious or unconscious oppression, people try to prevent unnecessary thoughts and feelings, although there is doubt about the success of such efforts (Wilson & Dunn, 2004). Inaccessibility of the mind to consciousness, including mental processes involved in perception, motor learning, personality, attitudes, and self-esteem, is one of the reasons of the self-knowledge failure (Wilson & Dunn, 2004). Some types of introspection might help people in building helpful individual narratives, although introspection cannot offer a direct channel to these mental processes (Wilson & Dunn, 2004).Introspection remains the most common way in which people try to decode their feelings, judgments, and motives (Wilson & Dunn, 2004). Introspection reveals the contents of consciousness, such as at least some of people’s current thoughts and feelings (Wilson & Dunn, 2004). Looking at ourselves through others’ point of view and monitoring our own behaviour are other means of increasing the self-knowledge (Wilson & Dunn, 2004). Although many key difficulties remain, these ways can potentially uphold the self-knowledge (Wilson & Dunn, 2004). The self-knowledge is considered to be quite partial because even though repression is normally flourishing that people do not recognize its limitation (Wilson & Dunn, 2004). Counsellors usually make the client realise about his/her own strengths in order to make gainful decisions about how to spend their time and apply their efforts, for example the choice of a career (Carter & Dunning, 2008). Furthermore, learning about their flaws, the clients stay away from costly mistakes (Carter & Dunning, 2008). The clients work on to improve these flaws during the counselling session (Carter & Dunning, 2008).
To conclude, understanding about the self and the self-knowledge, counsellors will be able to understand the human behaviour better. By this process, the counsellor will understand more about his/her own personality. It is really important for the counsellors to understand themselves first before being able to help others. Increasing self-knowledge is not an objective; however, it is to one’s advantage to have an idea about the different characteristics (Wilson & Dunn, 2004). Individuals normally don’t have a precise self-view if they are left alone (Carter & Dunning, 2008). However with the feedback from external people such as friends, teachers about their ability, they might have a better idea about their strengths and weaknesses (Carter & Dunning, 2008). Though, this feedback from the outside world can be often misleading (Carter & Dunning, 2008). One of the reasons of seeing a counsellor is that people learn about one self by precisely assessing one’s strengths and weaknesses (Carter & Dunning, 2008). For a counsellor to reach his/her objective, i.e. helping people in discovering themselves and finding their own solutions, it is important for the counsellor to have a good understanding and idea about the self and the self-knowledge.