The four core conditions of effective counseling
Empathy can be expressed if the counselor responds sensitively and accurately to the client’s feelings and experiences as if they were his own. It is the ability to adopt the client’s internal frame of reference in order for the client’s world and meanings to be accurately understood and clearly communicated back to him. Empathy allows the therapist to hear and respond to the client’s feelings such as anger, resentment, hostility, depression and joy. Counselors will now be able to transcend themselves while maintaining their separateness and individuality.
Genuiness or Congruence
This is probably the most fundamental element in the development of the therapeutic climate. The counselor’s congruence refers to their ability to be themselves, without the necessity of presenting a professional front or façade. Counselors who are genuine do not play any roles and have the ability to do because they are sensitively aware of their feelings and reactions as they are experiencing them. Verbal responses should always match the internal reactions and non verbal communication which is characterized by their spontaneity. This interaction facilitates trust allowing the client to easily relate to the counselor. This can only be accomplished if the counselor is open with their feelings, reactions, thoughts and attitudes.
This genuiness could play an important role in the therapeutic process. While the counselor listens to the content of the exchanges, the counselor will also listen to the client as a person which will promote client growth. This type of risk taking can be highly facilitative, enabling the client to explore personal issues and behaviours that may be hindering other relationships.
It can also promote intimacy and take communication to a new level. The disclosure of reactions to a client while they are occurring will decrease any distrust in the relationship.
Positive Regard or Respect
Positive regard is the therapist’s non-possessive warmth or respect for the client. The importance of the counselor’s ability to genuinely prize the client as a person of warmth and dignity is vital. The counselor will subsequently reach out in a warm and caring way and will not pass judgement but accepts the client’s attitudes, values and behaviours.
Positive regard can only be achieved if counselors themselves respect their own experiences, thoughts and feelings. This ultimately lays down the foundation for empathy.
This becomes fundamental to the counseling process as the helping relationship will allow them to move beyond behaviours, defenses and facades that others might find offensive. If this cannot take place the client should be referred to another counselor.
The intended warmth and positive feeling for the client is communication that is both verbal and non verbal. It is communicated nonverbally through eye contact, voice tone, facial expressions, physical position and touch.
Concreteness or Specificity of Expression
This involves the fluent, direct and complete expression of specific feelings or experiences regardless of their emotional content. This dimension moves the client through the helping process by encouraging the client to explore the problematic areas of his life and relationships with others.
The client usually cannot express their feelings in concrete and specific terms and it is the counselor’s responsibility to help clients become more in touch with their feelings. This is achieved by responding to the underlying stimulus for the feeling. In this manner, the counselor identifies more specifically the feeling the client is experiencing and also attempts to identify a stimulus for the feeling.