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What Are the Goals of Counseling?
Different individuals have different perceptions of what can be expected. Individuals preparing to become counselors, those who seek counseling, parents, teachers, school administrators, and governmental agencies, all differ in their expectations from the counseling experience. The final decision about these goals must rest with the counselor and the client as a team.
Counseling theorists do not always agree on appropriate counseling goals as they are often general, vague, and saturated with implications. However, the five major goals are often stated, namely:
- Facilitating behavior change.
- Improving the client’s ability to establish and maintain relationships.
- Enhancing the client’s effectiveness and ability to cope.
- Promoting the decision-making process and facilitating client potential.
These goals are, however, not mutually exclusive and will naturally be more often emphasized by some theorists than others.
Enhancing Coping Skills
We will inevitably run into difficulties in the process of growing up. Most of us do not completely achieve all of our developmental tasks within a lifetime. All of the unique expectations and requirements imposed on us by others will eventually lead to problems. Inconsistency on the part of the others may result in children learning behavior patterns that are inefficient, ineffective, or both. Learned coping patterns, however, may not always work as new interpersonal or occupational role demands may create an overload and produce excessive anxiety and difficulty for the individual.
Children who have grown up in excessively strict homes frequently adjust to such training measures by developing certain forms of inhibited behavior. When social or occupational responsibilities require individuals to behave more assertively, they may feel anxious, handle responsibilities ineffectively, and may exhibit physical and psychological symptoms such as frequent headaches, stuttering in front of people in authority, or the inability to sleep. This maladjustment to daily living makes coping skills an important goal of counseling.
Many clients tend to have a major problem relating to other people due to poor self-image, which causes them to act defensively in relationships; it may be the result of inadequate social skills. Typical difficulties include family, marital, and peer group interaction difficulties (e.g., the elementary school child). The counselor would then strive to help the client improve the quality of their lives by developing more effective interpersonal relationships.
The goal of counseling is to enable the individual to make critical decisions but not to decide which decisions the clients should make or to choose alternative courses of action.
Counseling will help individuals obtain information and clarify and resolve personal characteristics and emotional concerns that may interfere with or be related to the decisions involved. These individuals will then acquire an understanding of not only of their abilities, interests, and opportunities, but also of the emotions and attitudes that could influence their choices and decisions.
The activity of stimulating the individual to evaluate, make, accept, and act upon choice, will assist the individual to learn the whole decision-making process in order to be able to make decisions on their own. The individual would then become more independent and avoid dependence on a counselor.
How to Conduct the First Counseling Session
Facilitating Client Potential
Counseling seeks to maximize an individual’s freedom by giving him or her control over their environment while analyzing responsiveness and reaction to the environment. Counselors will work to help people learn how to overcome, for example, excessive smoking or drinking and to better take care of their bodies and overcome shyness, stress, and depression.
Counselors will also assist in overcoming sexual dysfunctions, drug addiction, compulsive gambling, obesity, fear, and anxiety. Counselors can also help with interpersonal problems, emotional problems, and the development of learning and decision-making skills.
Facilitating Behaviour Change
Most theorists indicate that the goal of counseling is to bring about change in behavior which will enable the client to be more productive as they define their life within society’s limitations. This definition of behavior will vary greatly among theorists. According to Rodgers (1961), behavior change is a necessary result of the counseling process, although specific behaviours receive little or no emphasis during the counseling process.
Alternatively, Dustin and George (1977) suggested that the counselor must establish specific counseling goals. A necessary shift should take place from general goals to specific goals to enable both the client and counselor to understand what specific change is desired. Specific behavioural goals have additional value as the client is better able to see any change that occurs.
Krumbolz (1966) suggested three additional criteria for judging counseling goals, as follows:
- The goals of counseling should be capable of being stated differently for each individual client
- The goals should be compatible with, though not identical to, the values of the counselor.
- The degree to which goals of counseling are attained by each client should be observable.
These goals are not mutually exclusive, nor are they equally appropriate for every client at any specific time. Counseling goals can be classified according to three categories: ultimate, intermediate, and immediate.
Ultimate goals are philosophical ideals that can be reasonably expected from counseling. These goals include helping individuals to realize their full potential or become self-actualized. These goals are sometimes, but not often achieved.
Intermediate goals relate to the reasons for seeking counseling and usually require several sessions to achieve them. Helping the individual develope to become and remain a well-adjusted, mentally healthy person, and to achieve his/her potentialities, would classify as an intermediate goal.
Immediate goals, on the other hand, are the moment-by-moment intentions of counseling such as encouraging the client to verbalize an unexpressed feeling.