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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 though.
Counseling theorists do not always agree on appropriate counseling goals as they are often general, vague and saturated with implications. Although 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 and development. These goals are, however, not mutually exclusive and will naturally be more often emphasized by some theorists than others.
Everything is abstract
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 while the client defines 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 the 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. They are: the goals of counseling should be capable of being stated differently for each individual client; it should be compatible with, though not identical to, the values of the counselor and the degree to which goals of counseling are attained by each client should be observable.
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 and all the unique expectations and requirements imposed on us by significant others will eventually lead to problems. Inconsistency on the part of the significant others may result in children learning behavior patterns that are inefficient, ineffective or both. However, learned coping patterns 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 that individuals to behave more assertively they may feel anxious, handle responsibilities ineffectively and exhibit physical and psychological symptoms such as frequent headaches, stuttering in front of people in authority or inability to sleep. This maladjustment to daily living makes it an important goal of counseling.
Promoting Decision Making
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 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. They would then become more independent and avoid depending on a counselor.
Many clients tend to have a major problem relating to other people due to poor self-image causing them to act defensively in relationships. Or it may be the result of inadequate social skills. Typical difficulties would be family and marital problems to the peer group interaction difficulties of the elementary school child. The counselor would then strive to help the client improve the quality of their lives by becoming more effective in their interpersonal relationships.
The five stages of the counseling process
Facilitating Client Potential
Counseling seeks to maximize an individual’s freedom with the limitations of the client’s environment and then to seek the individual’s effectiveness by giving him or her control over this environment and the responses within that are evoked by the environment. Counselors will thus 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 and fears and anxieties. They can also help with interpersonal problems, emotional problems and with the development of learning and decision-making skills.
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 would include helping individuals realize their full potential or become self-actualized. These are essentially goals of what individuals might become but rarely achieve.
Intermediate goals relate to the reasons for seeking counseling and usually require several sessions to achieve them. Examples would be to help the individual maintain an adequate level of development; to become and remain a constructive, well-adjusted, happy, mentally healthy person and to develop his or her potentialities.
Immediate goals, on the other hand, are the moment-by-moment intentions of counseling such as encouraging the client to verbalize an unexpressed feeling.