Counseling Essay Sample

Counseling Essay

1. Introduction
When the counselor meets the client for the first time, everything is important, as here works not only the law of the first impression, but also from this first meeting the whole further counseling process will depend. Therefore, deep understanding of non-verbal communication by the counselor is essential. Counselor should not only directly understand what signs do client verbally and non-verbally send to him, but also send to the client correspondent signs in order to develop trust, positive regard, confidence and understanding. Although the client may not be knowledgeable about all non-verbal signs, his unconscious would definitely catch general direction of the behavior and mood.

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Verbal communication is equally important, even though researchers of this topic claim that people usually percept more non-verbal signs and pay less attention to what is said. Therefore, the first impression is very much important (Andersen, 1999). In this essay I will investigate in verbal and non-verbal signs that would be the evidence of the established interaction between the client and the counselor. I will define key elements of that interaction and discuss what should be done in order to reach positive one. And finally I will discuss what should the counselor be looking for in the client in order to understand that they are having the positive therapeutic interaction, verbally and non-verbally.

2. Non- verbal communication
Wikipedia provides the following definition of what non-verbal communication – it is the process of transferring messages without saying any words, can sometimes be referred to as body language; messages can be sent by means of facial expressions, gaze, gestures,posture, personal space, appearance, voice, style of expressing thoughts and intonations.

As I have already mentioned, the first impression is the most important. It cannot always be that way, but at first what attention is paid to is appearance. And therefore the most common type of object communication is clothes. Usually person’s clothes determine the type of personality he is. But here is very much important to avoid stereotyping, therefore this non-verbal sign should be considered by the counselor, but not taken as the sole element for making the final decision about the person (Burgoon & Buller, 1996). In general, the way the client had come to the counselor can show his attitude to this meeting, but there also can be some subjective reasons for wearing this or that type of clothes, which should be taken into consideration.

Clothes is not the only parameter of the appearance, therefore counselor observes client’s shape, hair, etc. But appearance is a subjective issue, as it can be easily controlled by the person; therefore more attention should be paid to the behavior of the client during conversation, as non-verbal signals are far harder to control, as they come from unconscious, and therefore more objective conclusions can be made (Collier, 1985).

The signs that the client is ready for cooperation can be smiling, firm hand shaking, eye contact, uncrossed legs when sited, head cocked, finger to face, nodding, blinking and squinting (Siegman & Feldstein, 1987). And if the client shows signs of being ready for cooperation, then counselor and the client had reached rapport and the client trusts the counselor, as otherwise he would not show such signs and behaved more like being indifferent, in the process of evaluation or doubt.

Non-verbal signs when the person is indifferent to what is going on are: rhythmic drumming with fingers or pencil/pen over table or chair, legs crossed, shaking one foot (women in particular), turning away, to exit, for instance, yawning, turning up the nose and making special sound with it (signifying disgust).

Signs when the client is still in the process of evaluation whether to trust and open before the counselor or not are the following: hand to cheek gesture (a kind of Thinker statue), peering over the top of glasses (if the client wears them), ruffling hair, arched eyebrows, chin stroking. Those signs can also be interpreted that the client is not only evaluating, but showing interest to the matter. Therefore, that non-verbal behavior is more positive (Wolfgang, 1997).

When the client is in doubt, and this doubt has more negative pattern, then the signs would be the following: pacing, frown, rubbing eyes, scratching in front of ear, brow furrowed, etc.

If the client behaves this way, then counselor should quickly analyze the reasons of such behavior or even directly ask about them.

For building trust, rapport and positive regard, counselor should also show the client his attitude. He should listen carefully what the client is telling to him, nodding, supporting eye contact, taking notes to show that he is professional, leaning forward sometimes, do not interrupt, ask questions, avoid gestures that would indicate on dominance, superiority or indifference, etc.

It is very important to remember that non-verbal behavior can be easily misinterpreted. While interpretation, such factors as personal background, age, sex, family, lifestyle, etc. should be involved in the process.

3. Verbal communication
“Hear the meaning within the word”
William Shakespeare
I stated with the citation of William Shakespeare not occasionally, as verbal communication is what we hear, but without understanding of the background, words are meaningless. Only understanding of the person’s feelings and non-verbal signs can help in understanding the true meaning of the words the person wanted to express. This interpretation may be a bit philosophical, but to my opinion it is one of the most appropriate.

So, verbal communication and behavior refers to use of words, numbers, symbols, vocabulary, which are all structured in sentences by the use of language.

It can seem that in order to understand whether verbal communication is positive or negative it is enough to listen. For about 80 % it is true. But for the remained 20 % the counselor should follow what kind of information is told by the client in order to choose the best approach for further counseling process and to build trust and transference (Kendon, 1981).

The process of transference is going well if the client is ready to tell stories about his life and the existing problem (although during the first meeting it is not so much important), client uses positive words and explains his beliefs and point of view, he is asking questions not just about the future counseling process, but probably as well about the counselor (human factor), client avoids careless language and his voice tone and rhythm is regular. Voice connects verbal and non-verbal behavior; therefore it should be calm, if the clients trusts the counselor and is not nervous.

4. Conclusion
Every act of communication between people is aiming on getting positive emotions, exchanging information or getting help from one another. Understanding of verbal and non-verbal communication techniques and signs would assist in understanding people, their attitude and if necessary shape the communication process in the necessary positive direction.

In case with the counselor and client, counselor sharp-eyed in order not only to develop rapport and trust with the client, but also tune transference process with him and establish positive regard. Counselor should control the communication process and easily follow all verbal and non-verbal behaviors of the client. Sometimes counselor should adjust and modify, in order to get positive therapeutic interaction.

Only after thorough examination of client’s behaviors counselor would be able to develop and decide the most effective way of further counseling in order to get best results for mutual benefit.

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