Q5 Describe the benefits of giving and receiving feedback for personal development. (1.5)
a) Benefits of giving feedback
b) Benefits of receiving feedback
Just before exploring the benefits of feedback, it may be helpful first, to set the scene about personal development.
Personal development and growth seems to come from a combination of life experiences, personal endeavour and achievement, including the essential interactions with others. It is also enabled and enhanced through consciously increasing one’s own self-awareness of own thoughts, feelings, actions and behaviours; based both on the past and what we might intend for the future. By growing our self-awareness, we gain greater insight in where we might need to focus our personal development efforts.
A main way to increase self-awareness is from receiving constructive feedback from others on how our behaviours are perceived by them and what our behaviours may imply about ourselves in terms of motivation or attitude, values and beliefs. Sometimes it is important to understand, through feedback, how we impact others through our behaviour, what we say and how we say it. In this way, feedback on ourselves gives us the opportunity to consider whether we want to use the information towards our own personal growth.
It could be that by collecting feedback from a number of different people, a picture can be built about oneself through the shared views of others. This is like a consensus view of one’s own attributes or weaknesses, of which previously we may not have been aware.
The Benefits of Giving Feedback (benefits to the giver of the feedback)
The process of giving “good” feedback relies upon commitment in the person giving it to be fully present when observing the person who is to receive the feedback. This can serve to grow the counsellor’s own practise and skills in listening, understanding and empathising with the observed person. It is therefore essential for someone training to be a counsellor to practise and develop their effectiveness at observing and giving feedback. It helps to grow themselves as people.
Giving feedback to colleagues in the workplace has the benefit of establishing the leader within the team. It can engender respect and openness upon which trust between team members who work together can be built.
Regardless of the situation, if feedback is accompanied with “unconditional positive regard” (source: First Steps in Counselling, Ursula O’Farrell,1999), then the value of the feedback is further enhanced. It means that there is an inherent respect for the person’s worth as a person and his welfare. In this way the feedback given becomes open honest and constructive with the best interests of the person receiving it. We can think of it as a gift from one person to another.
In a helping relationship, giving feedback has the benefit of enabling the client to grow their own skills of listening, observation and practise in giving constructive feedback.
The Benefits of Receiving Feedback (benefits to the receiver of the feedback) …
The benefits of receiving feedback, for the person receiving it relates to the opportunity to understand and consider another viewpoint on themselves and decide if they want to act on it. The feedback can provide another perspective which helps the receiver understand themselves better through others and can help them to further develop.
In the workplace, many employers encourage the use of regular team feedback sessions in a one-to-one scenario, where individuals give and receive feedback to and from each other. The individuals can be peers or can be team member and their manager. Another approach which can be used either instead of, or in addition to the one-to-one method, is 360 degree, anonymous feedback questionnaires. This is where the person requiring the feedback, on their own leadership behaviours, for example, can request a survey from a number of respondents including managers’ peers and own staff. This can be a powerful way of gathering compelling feedback on own strengths and weakness, giving tangible direction and insights for the person’s own future personal development.
Steven Covey in his book “The Seven Habits of Successful People” talks about the need to “sharpen the saw” to work on one’s own continuous improvement. While the context for this is very much about achievement in the workplace, Covey talks about the importance of pro-actively seeking feedback from others on one’s own behaviours and performance as a basis for continuous improvement.
We can extend this idea to personal development, whether that is related to development of leadership, physical, intellectual, social, emotional or spiritual aspects and attributes of ourselves. It implies that by actively seeking out and considering feedback from others, we are able to derive great benefit from increasing self-awareness and a sense of direction for where we can look to grow.
From my experience so far on this Counselling Skills course I have seen and learned for myself and from others during the practice session – this has helped me to further understand myself at a deeper level. This can form a basis, upon which to make decisions about my own future personal development. The benefits here are the receipt of direction and insight. Even something as simple as one carefully chosen word reflected back to the client, by the counsellor, has a powerful impact; like a mirror from where the client can more clearly see themselves and where they might choose to endeavour to grow.
I have come to recognise that feedback both positive and negative is important for personal development as it helps us to become more aware of what we do and how we do it. Both in good and bad ways, this feedback can then be used to self-develop and improve our practice. Receiving feedback gives us an opportunity to change and modify our behaviour, in order to become more effective at skills. All feedback needs to be concerned and supportive; it needs to include both negative and positive feedback. Positive can help us feel good about our self and positive about our skills that have been observed. However, to develop further we need negative feedback to make improvements and grow as individuals, and practitioners.
Q6a Identify your own personal skills and qualities that are strengths in relation to a helping relationship. (2.1)
The Personal Skills of one of our Counsellors…
My main skills which I believe are strengths in a helping relationship are in active listening including reflecting and questioning and showing empathy to the client through paraphrasing and supportive summarising of the situation and what they seem to feel. Having, developed these skills from my life experience and working with all different races, cultures and nationalities in a global company, I have received feedback that I have good “people” skills and I am seen to be approachable and helpful in difficult situations. I believe these skills are strengths in helping relationships because they match my motivation to help people to solve problems and issues. I have also seen in the Triad work how using and further developing these skills has a beneficial effect on the helping relationships.
A couple of my personal qualities which I feel are strengths in helping relationships come from my tendency towards TYPE B behaviours (per Friedman and Rosenman). I am usually very calm (or able to behave in a calm manner when under pressure) and I am always trying to make sense of situations and find the big picture and long-term direction for solving problems. I think this gives me a positive orientation towards helping relationships because it enables people to feel I am “with them” and able to offer them unconditional positive regard towards helping enable them to identify and address their own issues.
Q6b Identify areas for development in personal skills and qualities in relation to helping relationships. (2.2)
With regard to your skills and qualities in helping relationships, identify the areas you would like to develop and highlight in ways in which you intend to achieve this.
The main area I would like to further develop is my listening skills. While feedback shows that people feel I am very attentive towards them, sometimes I miss parts of information resulting from my own “blocks to listening”. In a previous assessment these have been identified as loss of concentration coming from i) my sense of urgency in helping to find positive outcomes or solutions to problems (e.g. trying to think ahead of, or second-guess the client) and ii) my inner “judge” which can make me jump to conclusions about the motivations of others without verifying this.
I believe the causes of my loss of concentration come from my workplace where there is always a sense of urgency to fix things and move on. I tend to take upon myself the responsibility to fix things for myself and others. The way for me to achieve an improvement in this area is to remind myself that, in helping relationships I am the facilitator of positive outcomes for the client and NOT the problem solver. In other words I need to resist owning and solving the problem. To become more practised in this it will help me if I differentiate my working relationships from other relationships with friends and family. In other words I need to become more mindful in my interactions with others and think “is this just about work or is this an opportunity to help the person at a deeper level”.
Although physical exercise is part of my routine, I will need to build in some time for relaxing and meditation in order to become more “present”. I believe this will help me a lot in reducing anxiety and improving my concentration levels.
Q7 Describe how to develop skills and qualities in the future. (2.3)
In order to develop my skills and qualities in the future I need to
1 Know how to develop my self understanding
Definitions: values, beliefs; impact of helpers’ and helpees’ values and belief on the helping relationship
Motivation for helping others: altruism, own unresolved issues, ‘wounded healer’
Blocks to listening and learning: eg distraction, tiredness, illness, physical discomfort; concerns about own performance; thinking about what to say next, emotional blocks (including own material being stimulated)
Benefits of giving and receiving feedback: opportunity to reflect on and address ‘blind’ areas; how to give feedback using feedback ‘sandwich’; Johari window; practising giving and receiving feedback on areas of strength and ‘growing edge’ eg after skills practice, on basis of observation of peers during class interaction/ exercises
2 Know personal qualities relevant to the helping role
Personal skills and qualities: personal skills/qualities inventory; areas for development; Maslow’s theory of self-actualisation and characteristics of healthy people
Q8 Identify your own support needs in order to contribute to a helping relationship. (3.1)
Identify your own support needs in order to contribute to helping a relationship and describe how you can access this support.
Being quite a self-sufficient character I tend to see it as a form of weakness on my part to ask for help. I much prefer giving help to others than asking for it myself. However, I have come to realise that in some ways failing to ask for help when I really need it is actually a weakness rather than a strength. It can work against me and become quite isolating. The irony is that failing to ask for help could prevent me from meeting my true potential in helping others. I realise I need to try to shift my thinking on this.
Q9 Describe how to access your own support. (3.2)
3 Know how to meet own support needs
Support needs: defining own needs; how learning about and using counselling skills may change the levels of support required; peer support, supervision and personal therapy and how these may be accessed
Q10 Outline how personal and/or professional support can be used to highlight issues arising from the use of counselling skills. (3.3)
I have come to realise and appreciate that personal and professional support is vitally important to the counsellor in helping relationships because it enables them to become more effective in the helping relationship as a result of understanding themselves and addressing their own issues.
Sometimes, issues which may be unconscious to ourselves can manifest themselves when helping others, or may inhibit our ability to offer unconditional positive regard or be able to think and act objectively. In some cases it may not be possible to overcome the issues, but at least by developing self- awareness we become more mindful about how our own situation can impact the helping relationship. (e.g. we could become “too empathic” and experience vicarious anger or try to placate and rescue others with whom we more closely identify at a deep personal level).
For counselling practitioners, professional supervision is recommended and appears to be essential as a support mechanism for those regularly engaged for significant periods of time in concentrating on helping relationships. It is as if the greater the exposure to helping scenarios is, then the greater the support needs are to underpin on-going mental health and reduce stress of the counsellor, as well as to enhance and maintain their effectiveness in the helping relationship.
Although I am not a devout Christian, the Christian beliefs and teachings informed much of my upbringing. Every time we discuss the importance of support in counselling skills practice it makes me recall one of Jesus Christ’s lessons from the Holy Bible, New Testament: i.e. to help “remove the spec from someone else’s eye we first need to remove the log of wood from our own eye in order to see more clearly”…..to be of useful help. Personal and professional support appears to be a key enabler of the counsellor to become more helpful to others, through working on their own self-awareness and issues.
Q11 Describe your own observations, thoughts, feelings and concerns when using counselling skills. (4.1)
? The power of silence in helping the client access their own deeper feelings and resources. Although it might not always feel comfortable for the client, it seems to work every time to open up greater understanding.
? How eye contact and open body language helps make the client feel more comfortable to share own concerns or perceived weaknesses.
? How remembering to use paraphrasing helps me as the counsellor to avoid making assumptions and pursuing unhelpful line of questioning
? Understanding how consciously using the range of counselling skills helps the client to achieve positive outcomes for themselves.
? The idea that the “organismic self” (from Carl Rogers’ person-centred counselling theory established in the 1940’s) is motivated to find it’s own solutions, helps me to realise the client’s responsibility in the helping relationship, allowing me to release my own sense of responsibility to solve their problems for them. Realising that concentrating on using the skills is often enough to enable the client to discover and decide how to help themselves.
? Noticing how through the Triad work, I and my fellow students have grown our confidence and experience in using the skills, through providing feedback to each other. It makes me think how important it is to seek feedback on an on-going basis in my life.
? Being inspired by fellow students, with our Tutor’s guidance, in establishing trust and the safety of sharing personal thoughts and motivations.
? The encouragement and empowerment I feel in being able to help others make a difference in their own lives, through my own use of counselling skills.
? Feeling grateful for having the opportunity to join the course, for the insights and confidence I have gained from it and for the help and support I have received from everyone involved.
? Whether I will be able, at age 50, to overcome some of my less helpful behaviour patterns which have become quite entrenched in myself (as outlined above).
? Whether I will continue to receive financial sponsorship to continue my studies in counselling and if not, how I would fund this.
? The future of counselling as a practise, given technological change and how I could contribute in the “new world” environment.
Q12 Outline the benefits of self-reflection for: (4.2)
a) Personal development
4 Know how self-reflection contributes to personal development
Reflective practice: meaning of personal development; meaning of self-reflection and reflective practice; benefits of personal development for self and for use of counselling skills; impact that a simulated ‘client’s’ disclosure may have on them; why some disclosures are particularly difficult to hear; issue of competences and limitations; exploring reflective practice; reflection on observations, feelings, thoughts and concerns that occur when using counselling skills.
A counsellor’s own personal development must be in a continual process of development, growth and expansion. They must demonstrate an interest in self-awareness, self-counselling, work/life balance, focus, goal setting and other complementary areas of self-knowledge. Through their own development a counsellor will also pick up additional understanding and knowledge, which they can effectively use to support a client during the counselling process.
b) The use of counselling skills
Explain the benefits of self-reflection on your own personal development and in your use of counselling skills.
From reflecting on myself, I have realised there is a limit to what I can discover on my own. I need others and need to reach out to them to receive encouragement, support and feedback to help me become more effective in helping others.
Self-reflecting on own development needs and use of the counselling skills is a key component in deciding in what direction to grow and develop. I believe life itself is a dynamic environment where there is always something to learn about ourselves, others and the process of helping relationships. Unless we make a commitment and effort to self–reflect, to attain greater self-awareness and understanding, we may limit the help we can bring to others.
Feedback from others helps me check and verify areas for improvement. In other words the feedback helps to fuel my own self-reflection to crystalise areas of development or self-change that I need to focus on. I have also found that maintaining the discipline of updating my own Personal Learning Journal has enabled a regular self-reflection of how I am developing, learning and growing.
In conclusion I feel that self-reflection is not (as many people I know may see as) a self-indulgent act. It is a key to unlock one’s own potential to become more conscious, more self-aware as a basis to grow; both for one’s own benefit and towards being better able to help others.
I have come to recognise that successfully counselling clients through difficult times requires a combination of interpersonal skills, sufficient knowledge about the issues involved and a host of personal attributes. Balancing and adapting all this information requires the counsellor or psychotherapist to maintain a level head, confidence in their abilities and a genuine interest in providing support.
A successful counsellor must be able to demonstrate a thorough understanding of the counselling process. There are a number of key personal qualities that counsellors and psychotherapists should also possess, and which will make the therapeutic relationships they have with their clients more effective.
Empathy – Without this quality a counsellor will be unable to comprehend the problems, experiences, thoughts and feelings of another person, and will not be able to offer clients the level of supportive understanding that they will require.
Congruence – This provides clients with a vision of a counsellor’s genuine understanding and supportive nature.
Positive Regard – Counsellors must be able to build counselling relationships on a foundation of warmth, understanding and genuine support. In order for this to work, and to encourage a client to self-disclose, counsellors must have a natural rapport with a client.
Respect – Counsellors must show respect for another person, and their welfare, at all times. They must also remain impartial and non-judgmental.
Challenging skills A client must experience challenging questioning if they are to make progress during the counselling relationship. Being able to detect contradictions and encourage positive thought is an important part of the counsellor’s role.
Active listening, good interpersonal skills and an ability to question, reflect and challenge attitudes and beliefs are all personal skills that can help a counsellor build a successful career. An interest in self-awareness and self-development will also ensure that the counsellor or psychotherapist continues to develop their counselling skills, whilst expanding their own knowledge of themselves.
A counsellor can also utilise many other important skills within a counselling relationship, and this could include good planning and motivational skills, problem solving, organisational ability and re-orientation skills. Each counsellor will bring their own unique abilities, qualities and skills into a counselling relationship, but must ultimately ensure that their client feels safe and supported.
Besides the counselling qualifications, and additional certificates, a counsellor should possess in order to provide a good counselling relationship, the counsellor must also be armed with sufficient personal knowledge and understanding of what counselling is all about. They must also be clear about the role of the counsellor and the problems, issues and expectations every client will present.
A counsellor must also be self-aware, and must be in control of their feelings, thoughts and emotions whilst working with clients.