One of the problems with learning “Counseling Techniques” is that it takes away a good lot of the magic around counseling.
There are specific terms for nearly every response, every comment, every aspect of counseling. I am learning about appropriate times to use them and how to make them flow naturally. I know a good chunk of the techniques now and I will continue to learn more until the end of my 2nd year in the program.
The problem is that I can’t help but think that if I were sitting with a counselor who attempted to use one of those skills, I’d immediately reply, “OH! That was a GREAT use of X skill! Nice! Very natural sounding!” and “Ohhhhh, good use of X skill to make me look deeper at the problem! Sweeeeeeeet!”
I might even prompt the therapist with, “Y’know, now that I’ve mentioned X, it might be helpful if you asked me about Y and Z, no?”
Of course, I know that the whole point behind learning these particular skills is to help me make sure I’m covering everything that needs to be covered with a client – remembering to discuss the presenting problem isn’t hard, but remembering to ask other important questions can sometimes be forgotten “in the moment”. It’s also about making people feel comfortable in a situation that, for many, is particularly uncomfortable.
I know, too, that once you’re in a counseling session as the worker, it’s not about a mental checklist – it’s about the flow of things and trying to get a really big picture of the client’s perspectives. The mental checklist only comes in to play when the worker is ‘stuck’ (or new at all of this) and needs to move things along appropriately.
But I am pretty sure I will never be able to seek therapy for myself again. At least, not without being that therapist’s worst client EVER.