Counseling Articles / News
The Counseling Relationship Print
Thursday, 01 December 2011 15:04

A lot of discussion was done in counselling circles about what exactly it is that works when therapy works. Research shows that regardless of the orientation of the therapist, therapy does work.

A number of elements involved in counselling that stay the same across different theoretical orientations are: one person seeking help from another, the boundaries of time and space, the fact of talking to a stranger, confidentiality, and the chance to explore one's problems or one's life in general. Since there is no one single theory shown to be the only effective one, it would make sense that it is one or more of these that is effective in therapy.

All the elements of therapy matter but the most important element over which the counselor has control is the relationship between the client and the counselor.

According to Irvin D. Yalom in Existential Psychotherapy, "It is the relationship that heals" and this is the single most important lesson the therapist must learn.

It is not new that the belief in counseling relationship is important. As pioneered by Carl Ransom Rogers, who planted the seed of the humanistic approach with his Client-centered therapy and was born January 8, 1902, nearly thirty years before Yalom. Rogers believed that when certain elements are established in the client/counselor relationship, clients will change. The main elements are:

Empathy – understanding the client's world by adopting the client's internal frame of reference.
Unconditional Positive Regard – valuing the client by allowing them to feel unconditionally prized, valued, accepted, worthwhile and trusted simply for being who they are.
Congruence – being in the relationship, genuineness on the part of the counselor.

These ‘core conditions’ remain at the heart of client-centered therapy today.

Karen Tallman and Arthur C. Bohart believe that since it is the client that is the common element across all orientations:

- It is the client, not the therapist or technique, that makes therapy work
- It is true that while counselors facilitate, it is the clients who do the work of change

In this view:

The relationship is yet another resource which clients utilize to mobilize personal change.

Whether or not the relationship plays the primary agent of change in therapy, it is the single most powerful therapeutic element over which the therapist has control. That is why it is so important for counselors to undertake training and personal development work to enable them to be aware of and comfortable with who they are. In the final analysis, who the counselors are, is what they are offering to their clients.

Daria Joseph (KB/PA)
Student Counselor
SIDMA College

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