Advantages and Disadvantages of Personal Therapy for Counsellors

2165 words (9 pages) Essay in Psychology

08/02/20 Psychology Reference this

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“All these personal counselling / therapy requirements for counsellors in training encourage selfish introspection. Counsellors are there to help others, and if they need counselling themselves, they should not be in the job.” Discuss with reference to your own experience and beliefs and to counselling literature.

In this essay, I will be exploring if the requirement for trainees to be in personal therapy encourages selfish introspection, the requirements of local courses and theories, requirements of registering organisations and will also include my own experiences, beliefs and understanding of the requirement.

Personally I feel indignant at this statement as it questions the suitability of counsellors and shows a lack of knowledge, understanding and awareness of the positive impact of trainee’s personal therapy on the therapeutic process.

To the best of my knowledge personal therapy benefits not just the trainee but the client as it contributes in the formation of the therapeutic relationship. However, I also believe that personal therapy may have some adverse effects on the trainee dependent on the individual’s personality, culture and life experience and I wish to explore this further.

Many opinions exist within differing theories/courses. Many theories of counselling psychology stress the importance of self-awareness to be fundamental. In particular, humanistic approaches – person centred and existential therapies. Carl Rogers the founder of humanistic psychology emphasizes the personal worth & uniqueness of the individual, that each individual has the capacity to distinguish their own external locus of evaluation to strengthen their internal locus of evaluation to establish their organismic self; reaching their full potential to self-actualize – becoming a fully functioning person. Mearns, D. and Thorne, B. (2007, pp.19-25)

In order to facilitate this personality change, the counsellor must provide six necessary conditions for effective therapy which include three core conditions. These conditions cannot be established without the counsellor having achieved to a degree their organismic self in their own personal therapy. Rogers, C. (1967, pp.132-155) In order to change, one needs to fully accept themselves, by accepting ourselves, we are then truly in a position to accept and help others.

The BACP is the largest professional body in the UK. 2018, Ethical guidelines section 18:  We will maintain our own physical and psychological health at a level that enables us to work effectively with our clients

BACP therefore, suggests self awareness is critical to avoid doing harm. In 2005 BACP changed their requirement from 40 hours’ personal therapy for accreditation so that all theoretical approaches, including those not required to have personal therapy were included, instead making self awareness a criterion. The BACP did not remove the criteria for personal therapy for accreditation if it is a requirement of the courses for trainees. Hewes, B. (2010)

The Human Givens institute, claim that the BACPs decision no longer require counsellors to undergo personal therapy proves that personal therapy is not necessary to produce an effective counsellor. They claim that too many protected egos and financial investment are at risk to completely eliminate personal therapy. Human Givens believe that trainee counsellors do not need to have personal therapy in order for them to be more effective practitioners. Human Givens claim therapy is only needed when in distress and the main qualities needed to become a good counsellor is intelligence and life experience. Although, I could not find any evidence to support this claim. Scott, C. (2006)

Crysalis courses do not require personal therapy not stating why yet, their website lists the advantages, this seems contradicting. (<www.chrysaliscourses.ac.uk>)

Inter-Psyche require trainees to undertake 60 hours of personal therapy, emphasizing the importance of self-awareness, becoming aware of areas that require further exploration in order to work effectively.  (<www.inter-psyche.co.uk>)

Existential approaches require personal therapy one hour weekly throughout the training process – (<Gestaltcentre.org.uk>) WPF guidelines require trainees to be in individual therapy at least once a week and the Foundation for Psychotherapy and Counselling require trainees to have been in therapy for 6 months prior to contact with clients. (<Wpf.org.uk>)

Little research has been undertaken to determine the outcome of trainee personal therapy comparably, as research is generally narrative. However, a meta-synthesis of qualitative research combined findings on mandatory therapy and discovered there are many benefits to personal and professional development but that it also had negative effects such as stress/anguish and a negative impact on personal relationships. Bennett-Levy, J (2018) However, I have found no clear result for either argument.

Freud, S (1964, pp.216-253) the founder of personal therapy cited “personal therapy is the deepest and most non-negotiable part of clinical education” recognising the importance of the awareness of self in order to work effectively with a client.

Initially, I was unsure if personal therapy was necessary. However, I soon understood that I could not be a professional me and a personal me. I opted to enter therapy during the certificate course. I had acknowledged from triads that my childhood had had a profound effect upon me and I wanted to begin to lessen the possible negative effects on the diploma as I feared distraction from learning. I slowly began to address the past and negative patterns. One pattern was that I would submerge myself in others to focus all of my energy outwards. A defence mechanism to prevent myself acknowledging painful memories. I have now confronted this pain and I am comfortable with it. If I was uncomfortable with my pain, I could have transferred this discomfort and not dealt with the client’s issues. Crouch, A. (2007, pp.93-94)

The benefits of personal counselling for a trainee are plentiful, the experience of active listening and UPR first-hand allow us a greater understanding in offering the conditions fully and allows us to experience being the client. The higher internal awareness establishes who we can and cannot work with, by highlighting prejudices and minimising cultural assumptions, it discerns projective identification, over identification & organised attachment so that I can accurately recognise if its mine or the clients. Crouch, A. (2007, p.170)

Self awareness also prevents unconsciously deluding with clients and not challenging them. To avoid parallel processes and recognise potential transference & counter transference but also to learn about my own transference difficulties. By acknowledging my vulnerabilities, it will promote self empathy and increase emphatic responses therefore, helping personal and professional development. The relationship with the self will positively impact all of my work with a client. Mearns, D. and Thorne, B (2007, pp. 45-62)

There are many different opportunities to work on self-awareness other than personal therapy, Johari Window, EQ, reflective Journal and PD groups all help obtain self awareness allowing us to live outside of our façade and prevent over identification. Rowan, J (1998, pp. 1-12)

On a negative side, by exploring my inner world, I then doubted my own version of events. I sought corroboration from my siblings, which, for them, arose painful buried memories. As the eldest of four children, I felt responsible for their emotions, I believed I should make them feel better. This highlighted a core belief of mine that, could potentially hinder future therapeutic relationships of being a helper rather than a supporter. However, now that I am aware, I can now explore and understand it further.

I can also understand the essay statement, some may believe that by being in therapy it makes you defective and shows incompetence. It may also, be a transferential need for the counsellor to be seen as a perfect person and therefore themselves too. The avoidance of self introspection can sometimes be viewed as unselfish due to Christian tradition where its considered unhealthy to reflect overly on one’s self which could prevent active participation. Mearns, D. and Thorne, B (2007, pp. 45-47)

The negatives for personal therapy are also plentiful. Mandatory therapy does force students into therapy regardless of their position to address the self in order to qualify. A student may not actively participate in its purpose due to fear of the unknown or the stress that may arise. If one is in a nearly constant state of incongruence, an individual may hide their true feelings by distorting reality instead believing that they are their persona. Due to this they will not benefit from its purpose and it will also be financially demanding which, in itself is a large dedication for those economically disadvantaged. Trainees may not have the time to meet the requirement or feel pressured into continuing with an unsuitable counsellor. Self reflection may impact negatively on relationships and it can also be emotionally draining which may effect training. Overall, it can have a negative impact on training due to personal therapy becoming a painful experience. Macaskills, N.D (1998, pp. 199-226)

I do believe it selfish to be working with clients without self awareness, if for example a counsellor has an external locus of evaluation they wont be able to work effectively with a client possibly, due to fear of causing upset.

In conclusion, I believe personal therapy is of benefit to all trainees. Trainees need to have had personal therapy to gain self awareness and be fully functioning practitioners. Although, personal therapy does not guarantee self awareness; if the trainee is not in the correct psychological capacity to address the self. One needs to be aware of their own inner world in order to congruently sit with others in theirs, as stated by Mearns, D and Thorne, B. Without self awareness, our own experiencing may hinder the process.

By recognising who we can and cannot work with due to prejudices it allows us to work ethically, otherwise we compromise empathy. It is essential for counsellors to understand their cultures and worldviews before helping others. Effective counsellors need to be able to recognise diversity and cultural differences, in order to offer the core conditions fully to the client. Aldridge, S. and Rigby, S. (2001, pp. 65-83)

I believe if your aim for personal therapy is self awareness and growth, it is with the intention to ensure you are in the best position to work effectively. I have no doubt that it is essential to have personal counselling to self develop and to continue to do so as the process of self actualisation is never ending. Rowan, J. (1998, pp. 1-12) Therefore, I conclude that trainees requiring personal therapy does not encourage selfish introspection, it encourages self awareness in order to effectively work as a good counsellor.

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