So…you are thinking of becoming a mental health counselor. Congratulations! You are considering work in one of the most rewarding vocations out there. Although, most would say it’s a “calling.” To help you get a better feel for the work, I will outline the top three psychotherapy techniques.
Out of all the psychotherapy techniques, listening is perhaps the most essential. It is absolutely imperative that you understand what the client is saying, and if you don’t listen well you won’t be able to do that. Now, people think they are great listeners until they actually try to do therapy. Then, they realize that they really haven’t been listening at all. Rather, they have been “waiting to speak” as most people do.
Listening properly takes a great deal of effort and concentration. You must clear your mind of all thoughts and distractions and focus only on what the person is saying. Oh, and not just what they are saying but how they are saying it. Although it sounds simple, this is actually quite difficult.
A helpful technique is to paraphrase what the client is saying. This will help you slow down and focus. But don’t overdo this- you’ll sound like a parrot and the client will wonder why they are paying you good money just to repeat whatever they say.
Another essential counseling technique is confrontation. And it’s another thing that is simple in concept but difficult to do, particularly for novice therapists. But it is actually a lot less scary than it sounds. When you confront a client you don’t do it because you are angry at them, or because you are trying to force them to see your viewpoint. You do it because you are genuinely confused. You see, they have either said or have done something that conflicts directly with something they said or did earlier. What you are doing is expressing confusion about their inconsistencies, in the spirit of understanding them better so that you can help them. Framed that way, confrontation is a lot easier for therapists to swallow.
Another great technique is clarification. Think about one of the most common reasons clients come to therapy: poor communication skills. And that includes their communication with you. So, you’ll have to ask questions in order to make sense out of their stories. But the most beautiful thing about this technique is while you are doing this, the client is also doing some work. See, they have to clarify it for themselves before they can clarify it for you. And…sometimes that is enough to actually address the issue itself! There have been occasions where my client didn’t need to return for future sessions, because he or she solved the problem for themselves during the intake session by answering my questions.
Now, you have to be careful with this technique as to not make the client feel that they are being interrogated. I am a naturally curious person, and so this technique works well for me. Expressed in the spirit of wanting to understand the client better, it’s hard to go wrong.
Yours in the Joy of Knowledge,