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The objective of this research paper is to discuss the personal attributes that are required in a physically and emotionally healthy counselor. A healthy counselor has a positive effect on his or her client. The field of counseling is becoming significant part of people’s life. This paper establishes its basis on the conflict of values of counselor and its effects. Another important aspect of the paper is to research about consequence of counselors-in-training interacting with clients prior to their master’s level training. It will highlight the consequences of engaging in practice prior to the training and its effect on capability of handling the client’s issues and queries. This could also lead to issues with the credibility of the counselor. These aspects are studied through literature and case studies done by other writers. Different researches conducted in the past are the major source of information. Foundation of this paper is based on the personal characteristics that a counselor should possess and their values.
Personal Characteristic of Counselors
Counseling is about giving advice and guiding the clients through their difficult times. It relates to the mental health and emotional state of the client. People seek counseling for their careers, jobs, relationships, addictions and general issues of their lives. Counseling is usually used as a synonym for psychotherapy. When in difficult times family and friends are unable to help someone, they seek for guidance, strength and answers from their counselor. Counseling is practices in sessions of an hour or so for once or twice in a week. Counselor and client both play vital roles in the recovery of client. Counselor’s expertise will be of no use if client does not fully share his or her problem. So, both have to be supportive and persistent while conducting these sessions.
Counseling is a field that requires patience, rational thinking and empathy. Counselors make a difference in the lives of other people. It is important for a counselor to feel empathy for the client. As Guidon (2010)describes, a sympathetic person wants to solve the issue him/herself but a person who feels empathy does not mix client’s problem with their own. Counselors lead a demanding life. Their clients require not only their time and advice but also trust and care. Therefore, a counselor needs to have very specific qualities in their personality in order to provide effective service to their clients. Other than the obvious personal abilities like interpersonal skills, counselors require many personality traits to be effective and efficient. Corey (2009) says that there are many characteristics of counselors which seem unrealistic but these are equally essential for any counselor. Before giving advice to clients, a counselor him/herself needs to be sure of their capabilities. Sincerity and honesty are very important in this field.
A counselor needs to be observant, active listener, interviewing, influential and focused. The effective councilor also requires a sound knowledge of theory and ability to put theory into practice (Gregoire & Jungers, 2007). Corey (2009) states that it is very important for effective counselor to maintain healthy boundaries, this way they should be able to maintain a balance between their personal and professional lives. Corey also concluded from his research that counselor should have a good sense of humor in order to lighten the mood. Guindon (2010)believes that clients give a counselor many non-tangible gifts like trust, care and confidence. Corey (2009) also says that the relationship of client and counselor helps both parties. Consolers learn how to admit their mistakes and become open to change in their lives.
McLoead (2011)discusses the qualities of people who are drawn to the field of counseling. Usually people who become counselors believe that relationships are the most important aspect of human life. They are also firm believers in the values that prove the worth of people and they are clear about their role in society and their future goals. Another most important personal trait of counselor is to be honest and keep the privacy of patient. It is their moral and professional obligation.
Values and its Confilcts
Values are the standard held by people about what is desired, proper and acceptable. It gives people a criterion of standards for shaping their lives. Both personal and professional values are important. Personal values affect the way of interaction with the client. Personal values of a consoler are developed as he/she grows up; they depend upon the upbringing and culture in which the counselor spends most of the time. Personal values include honesty, truth, helping others, doing meaningful work and positive influence on others (Corey, 2009). There is always a chance that the personal values of a counselor conflicts with the work values. Busacca (2010) tells that personal values conflict with the work values. If a counselor has a personal belief that a terminally ill person should have the right to end their lives; however, he cannot impose this thinking on anyone else. Studies show that counselors, while training, question their self-concepts with those requires for their field of work. Counselors have appeared to be molding themselves in their professional values after certain period of time. They have to create their own boundaries in which they want to practice.
Research (Sanders, 2003) shows that cultural difference between client and counselor can have a major impact on the relationship and therapy. The personal biases on either side can result in failure of professional values and ethics. High level of sincerity can reduce the cultural barrier among client and counselor. The counselor has to have a non-judgmental attitude towards the client regardless of his/her personal values. Campbel & Christopher (2012)also say that the counselor has to be physically, mentally, emotionally and cognitively on the same level with the client at all times. Mostly, counselors have to deal with grief counseling for their clients. Counselors, who are more self-aware and comfortable in sharing their feelings, are more efficient and effective at their work (Ober, Granello, & Wheaton, 2012).
Professional values determine the role of a person in organization and the ability of balancing work and family. Work values of counselor include taking responsibility, empathies, develop counseling style, share responsibility with client and tolerate ambiguity. The common issues where conflict of values occurs are religion, sexual orientation and someone’s right to die. Serious consequences might occur as a result of these conflicts (Guindon, 2010).
We can conclude that personal values of counselors can conflict with the professional values. However, strong personal values will work in favor of the counselors. A counselor with strong moral and ethical values will have a positive influence on the clients. Whereas if a counselor doesn’t practice honesty, integrity and privacy of others than he or she is more likely to face difficulty in understanding a client with strong moral values. Although a counselor cannot impose their personal values on clients but they can have a very positive effect in influencing and helping the client in their difficult times. If there is a strong disagreement between the values then it might result in referral to another counselor but most of the times this conflict can be resolved with cold-mindedness and rational thinking.
Survey (Busacca, Beebe, & Toman, 2010) shows that practicing counselors show matured level of values than trainee counselors. Yager & Tovar-Blank (2007) also comment that counseling is a profession which is very stressful, tiring and with constant threat of fatigue and burn out. Trainee counselors do not completely practice cognitive counseling and usually under their instructors influence. For students of counseling it is very important to learn the wellness of the client and themselves. The curriculum has to be designed in such a way that they are completely aware of this idea and its implications. Grief counseling is a very important aspect of psychotherapy. If the trainees indulge themselves in practice before understanding the importance of wellness, skill and knowledge required for grief counseling, they are bound to miss lead the client. Without the master’s level training, the trainee counselors are not fully prepared to help the client and understand the delicate nature of the job. At this level, trainees themselves are in conflict with requirements of their profession and their personal moral and ethical values and beliefs (Ober, Granello, & Wheaton, 2012).
Statistics by Gaubatz & Vera (2006)show that only 4-5% trainees enrolled in master’ or doctoral program are prevalent than those in undergraduate level. Statistic also shows that only 10% of students enrolled in mater’s program are suitable for the field of counseling. However, Woodside (2007) says that it is better for trainee counselors to interact with the clients. But, this interaction should be under the guidance of a practicing professional counselor. Internships are a very effective way of learning by example. Yager & Tovar-Blank, 2007 (2007) on the other hand is of the opinion that if an emotionally unstable student is enrolled in counseling program then the course should be deigned in such a way that it should enlighten the student and make him self-aware. If such a student practices before being properly trained, he will not be able to understand the client and might make the situation worse of the client.
The research (Woodside, Oberman, Cole, & Carruth, 2007) shows that the student of undergraduate level is not fully matures and trained. Most of them show signs of anxiety and confusion about converting theory into practice. Those who feel confident are not fully trained and hence experience disanointed clients and they themselves become more confused. There are three basic stages of counselor’s professional development including the helper, the beginning student and the advanced student. Passing through various techniques and training, trainees reach the next level of their professional development. Another research (Busacca, Beebe, & Toman, 2010) shows that at training level counselors-to-be explore their inner values and self-concept. This stage defines who they actually are and what they actually want to be. Being self-aware and knowing personal characteristics is as important as learning the theories of counseling. Once they are clear about their own values, they can determine the bounties in which they want to work. Not everyone can work in a profession that demands occasional conflicts of personal and professional values and ethics.
Hence, keeping the view of the research conducted by various experts, we can say that trainees who start seeing clients before their master’s level training are bound to suffer a shock. They will not be able to handle the clients. Their own values will not be in sync with their professional demands. Being not fully self-aware and lack of proper training might lead them not only to a dissatisfied client but they might also add to the misery of their client. If they give advice according to their personal ethics and values rather than professional values, their clients will doubt their sincerity towards them. All in all, it will not be a good decision to practice before having some master’s level training.
Counseling is not only a profession but also a great responsibility. It is a vast field which includes career counseling, grief counseling, behavior therapy, heath counseling and also covers issues like addiction, mental health and relationship issues. Clients confine everything in their therapist and seek their guidance in various aspects of their lives. To become a counselor, one has to possess certain qualities like theoretical knowledge of personality, empathy for client’s situation, understanding behavior, attentive listening ability and power of deduction.
After studying the literature pertinent to personality and values of a counselor, it can be concluded that both of these are very important for the professional development of a counselor. Their personality not only defines who they are but also determines how efficient they are in their profession. Strong moral and ethical values of a counselor can make the relationship with clients stronger. Clients will rely on the counselor for his/her advice. If in-training counselors try to treat their patients before master level training, they are more likely to have cognitive issues and difficulty in dealing with their own personality and work value conflict. So, it is better to start practicing once you are finished with training so that there is no confusion between personal and work values.
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