CFN9885 - SECTION 3: QUESTIONS CLINICIANS SHOULD ASK THEMSELVES
People typically decide to become clinicians for a variety of reasons, including the need for control and power, to be nurturing and helpful, to feel adequate and competent, to be respected and appreciated, to change others according to their values, and to work through their own personal issues.
In most cases, there is nothing wrong with deriving personal satisfaction from counseling work. However, when the needs of the clinician take precedent over the needs of clients, problems may arise. Clinicians need to constantly examine whether their personal needs are negatively affecting their work with their clients. Personal reflection, consultation and supervision with colleagues, and personal counseling are all important tools in staying on top of this area. (Corey, 2001a).
When they attempt to both understand and join with clients, it is important for clinicians not to join too closely or try to do too much for them. If clinicians bond too closely with their clients, they may lose their sense of perspective and they may find it difficult to challenge them. If clinicians take too much responsibility and control, then they may not be allowing clients to develop their own resources to address their problems.
As an example of this, one of my early clients had a problem controlling his anger both at home and at work. In my early attempts to express understanding and support for him, there were statements made that gave him the impression that some of his anger toward his wife was justified. While I needed to join with him and be understanding, it was only when I also held him accountable for the inappropriateness of his anger that he slowly began to make progress in understanding and controlling his emotions.
Among the questions clinicians should ask themselves are the following:
- Am I aware when I am feeling uncomfortable with a client’s thoughts or behaviors or in discussing a particular subject area?
- What do I do when I am uncomfortable with, or when I want to avoid looking at or discussing, certain subjects or working with certain clients?
- How important is it to me for my clients to like and respect me and in what ways do I try to get their approval and respect?
- Am I able to be as open with my clients as I want them to be with me?
- Do I feel I am generally more in touch with my feelings and smarter than my clients, and what impact does this have on the way in which I relate and work with them?
- Do I always feel as though I need to be in control of situations and how does this impact my work with my clients?
- Do I become irritated when others do not see things the way I do or when clients do not respond the way I think they should?
- Do I often feel as though I am not allowed to make mistakes, that I must be successful with every client, or that everything I do with a client must be successful?
- Do I have a tendency to focus on the negative aspects of people’s lives - including my clients' - and do I not pay enough attention or support that which is positive and good in people’s lives?
- Do I continue to see my clients as individuals with unique thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, or do I tend to see them as just another client?
- Am I taking care of my own personal life and actively practicing the positive things that I want for my clients, including a healthy balance between my private and professional life?
- Am I staying active in professional organizations, maintaining contact with colleagues, and keeping abreast of the latest developments in my counseling areas?
- Am I continuing to follow the ethical and legal guidelines of my profession in the ways in which I work with clients and present myself as a clinician?
- Do I know the limits of my counseling practice and abilities, do I refer clients to other clinicians and treatment programs when I am not fully qualified to work with them, and do I actively seek the advice of my colleagues in working with my clients? (Okum, 2002)
It has been said that we can take our clients no further than we have been willing to go in our own lives. While it is essential to acquire the educational training necessary to be a clinician, learn how to effectively apply the theories and techniques, and to gain supervised experience as a clinician, this is typically not enough to make you an effective clinician.
It is also necessary for clinicians to be willing to take an honest look at your own lives to determine if you are willing to do for yourself what you challenge your clients to do. It will be difficult to inspire your clients if you are not willing to examine your own life and the relationships you have with others and to seek help, including counseling, if needed.
Most counseling professions highly encourage clinicians to be involved in their own personal therapy so they can work on their own personal and interpersonal issues and well as to see and feel what it is like to be a client.
As the counseling process progresses, the client should increasingly see the clinician as a caring and genuine person who is able to understand the client’s feelings and behaviors. When such is the case, clients then begin to trust the clinician and feel safe in sharing more private and personal thoughts and feelings.
In a similar manner, clinicians will have more accurate and complete information about the client and will be able to respond more accurately and completely, including giving feedback that otherwise would have raised client defenses if introduced earlier in the counseling process.
This combination of greater client openness and increased clinician knowledge sets the stage for more in-depth exploration. Both client and clinician become more aware of significant people and events that have shaped the client’s life, positive and negative self-images the client has about his/herself, deficiencies in the client’s coping and problem-solving skills, strengths that the client possess but is not fully using to resolve his/her problems, and unacknowledged goal the client wants to accomplish.