The counseling process refers to the series of steps and activities that occur during a counseling session or therapy session. While different therapists may have their own variations, the general counseling process typically involves the following stages:
Initial Contact and Assessment: The process usually begins with the client contacting a therapist to schedule an appointment. During the initial session, the therapist conducts an assessment to gather relevant information about the client’s concerns, background, and goals. This helps the therapist understand the client’s needs and determine the most appropriate approach.
Building Rapport and Establishing Trust: Establishing a positive therapeutic relationship is crucial for effective counseling. The therapist works to build trust and create a safe and non-judgmental space where the client feels comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings.
Goal Setting: Together with the client, the therapist identifies specific goals for the counseling process. These goals can be short-term or long-term and serve as a guide for the therapy sessions. Clear goals help focus the counseling process and measure progress.
Exploration and Insight: The therapist facilitates exploration of the client’s thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and experiences. Through various therapeutic techniques, such as active listening, open-ended questions, and reflection, the therapist helps the client gain insight into their challenges, patterns, and underlying issues.
Intervention and Strategies: Based on the client’s goals and identified issues, the therapist introduces appropriate interventions and strategies. This may include teaching coping skills, providing psychoeducation, offering relaxation techniques, challenging unhelpful thoughts, or suggesting behavioral changes. The therapist collaborates with the client to develop practical tools and techniques that can be applied in everyday life.
Processing and Reflection: Throughout the counseling process, the therapist encourages the client to reflect on their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. This reflection helps deepen understanding, gain new perspectives, and promote personal growth. The therapist provides a supportive environment for the client to express emotions, process difficult experiences, and explore alternative ways of thinking.
Closure and Evaluation: As the counseling process nears its end, the therapist and client work together to summarize the progress made and review the goals initially set. This stage allows for reflection on the client’s growth, insights gained, and any unfinished work. The therapist and client may discuss future steps or additional support if needed.
It’s important to remember that the counseling process is a collaborative effort between the therapist and the client. The therapist provides guidance, support, and expertise, while the client actively engages in the process, participates in sessions, and applies the strategies discussed outside of therapy to promote positive change and personal well-being.
The counselling process using REBT helps clients to replace absolutist philosophies, full of ‘musts’ and ‘shoulds’, with more flexible ones. Part of this includes learning to accept that all human beings (including themselves) are fallible and learning to increase their tolerance for frustration while aiming to achieve their goals.
Although emphasizing the same ‘core conditions’ as person-centred counselling — namely, empathy, unconditional positive regard, and counsellor genuineness — in the counselling relationship, REBT views these conditions as neither necessary nor sufficient for therapeutic change to occur, during the counselling process.
The basic process of change which REBT attempts to foster begins with the client acknowledging the existence of a problem and identifying any ‘meta-disturbances’ about that problem (i.e., problems about the problem, such as feeling guilty about being depressed). The client then identifies the underlying irrational belief which caused the original problem and comes to understand both why it is irrational and why a rational alternative would be preferable.
During the counselling process, the client challenges their irrational belief and employs a variety of cognitive, behavioural, emotive and imagery techniques to strengthen their conviction in a rational alternative. (For example, rational emotive imagery, or REI, helps clients practice changing unhealthy negative emotions into healthy ones at (C) while imagining the negative event at (A), as a way of changing their underlying philosophy at (B); this is designed to help clients move from an intellectual insight about which of their beliefs are rational and which irrational to a stronger ‘gut’ instinct about the same.)
They identify impediments to progress and overcome them, and they work continuously to consolidate their gains and to prevent relapse.