In my last post, I discussed the importance of establishing the client’s goals. In this post, I will discuss the next step: treatment.
Now that we know what the client’s issues are, and what the goals are for counseling, it’s time to begin. Wait…you say. I thought we already begun? Well, sort of. Up until now, most of the activity has been geared for setting the stage for the actual process of doing counseling interventions. You know, the fun part.
A common mistake beginning counselors make is starting the intervention process too early. Now, there may be times in which you can throw in some intervention as you are assessing the client and establishing goals, but the meat of the intervention process should happen after you actually understand what is going on with the client. Makes sense, right? So don’t do the metaphorical equivalent of analyzing the bark of the wrong tree. You’ll waste time and irritate the client, neither of which are productive.
OK, so now what? You have to choose an intervention. This will depend on your theoretical orientation (which will be discovered and developed in your master’s program), time left in session, and client factors such as readiness, temperament, and personality.
Let me say a few words about client temperament and personality, mainly because I don’t think most master’s programs talk about this. Just as counselors differ in theoretical orientation and style, so do clients. What I mean is that some clients are extroverted, some introverted; some are reserved, some open; some are verbally expressive, some not. When choosing an intervention you must consider all of these factors. Naturally, in the beginning of the relationship you aren’t going to know all of this; it’s something you learn about the client over time. That’s why it’s important to check in with the client regularly, by both overtly asking “How is the process going for you?” or “Was that helpful?” or “Do you understand/agree?” and by watching their body language. If their faces cloud over (hard to explain exactly what I mean by that, but you’ll recognize it when you see it), if they seem to withdraw or suddenly stop making eye contact, then it’s time to change the intervention. Although determining the intervention is mainly up to the counselor, it really is a collaborative process because we must consider the effects on the client. I mean, isn’t that why they are there in the first place? To have good effects? So, just like the goals, don’t marry your interventions, just date them because you may end up with new ones. And divorces are ugly.
Yours in the Joy of Knowledge,