1. Focus is usually placed upon the process involved, the learning that occurs, and the assistance that is given. Four basic assumptions must be accepted if counselling is to be successful.
First, it is assumed that the student is willing to participate in the process. He may have a concern, wonderment about the world around him, or curiosity about what he is experiencing.
While the process may be unfamiliar to him and he may display resistance at moments, counselling will not be successful unless he participates fully.
2. The counsellor must possess appropriate training, experience, and personal attitudes to function effectively.
He must be able to relate easily with the student, assist him in establishing objectives and goals, and employ any ethical means that will assist the student to change or learn behaviours necessary to cope with his environment and work toward the objectives they mutually have established.
3. An appropriate environment is necessary. Depending upon the nature of the interview, this environment must provide assurance of confidentiality, a mood of contemplation, and/or adequate information resources.
4. As the term is used in school settings, counselling must provide a relationship that allows for meeting both immediate and long-term needs. The counsellor must be available at moments when the student needs him for specific assistance.
Another objective toward which the counsellor works is assisting the student to examine the psychological dimensions of what he is thinking and saying.
The counsellor’s approach in this regard is quite the opposite of that of a person engaged in social conversation.
In social situations we react to remarks of self-doubt or anxiety by attempting to “close down” the display of emotion. We may interject mirth, change topics, give words of comfort, or suggest that things really couldn’t be as they seemed.
The counsellor must be mindful of limits in time and his ability to assist the student. Assisting the student to open up carries with it the obligation, on the part of the counsellor, to have the time and skill to follow through and terminate the interview successfully.
During the course of practice, counsellors find themselves operating at various points along our dimensions. The nature of the relationship of the student’s awareness may determine, in part, the counsellor’s behaviour.
However, the counsellor’s basic philosophy concerning human development and the translation of this philosophy into a theoretical approach to counselling also influences his behaviour.
Examination of these dimensions is not made to determine which is appropriate and which is inappropriate; rather, they are stated here to help the counsellor order his thinking and understand the meanings and purposes of the four continua.
Our problem-solving nature sometimes causes us to attempt to ‘diagnose’ and ‘prescribe’ in the best tradition of the family doctor.
The counsellor’s insight may prove immediately helpful to the student. He may be able to make a specific observation that causes the student to view himself more clearly.
More than one-shot problem solving is involved in counselling, however. Concerns frequently are of a developmental nature.
The student may wish to explore subtleties of his environment and culture or learn how to relate effectively with peers. In these instances, he will learn more effectively through experiencing than being told.
Both intellectual content and personal feeling are the substance of counselling, and a relationship seldom develops in the absence of either.
Again, it is the responsibility of the counsellor to assist the student in focusing upon facts and descriptive content at one moment and their affective meaning to the student at another.
The counsellor can sometimes combine both in his response. He may say, “You see that you’re not accepted, can understand why, but feel pretty angry about it”.
The counsellor must, at all times, view himself as operating in two distinctly different ways. A part of him must remain the detached, scientific observer who takes account of student behaviours, formulates thoughts as to their implications, and subjects these thoughts to tests by questioning the student or observing whether or not behaviour is consistent.
However, the counsellor is fully involved in the relationship, must act and react, and cannot remain a stoic observer if the relationship is to be marked by involvement and movement.
Stress has previously been placed upon the need for structure within the interview. That the student may need some assistance in understanding the purpose of counselling and what is expected of him in general terms is not argued.
At the same time, he needs freedom to decide what he feels is important and how he wishes to proceed. The counsellor, therefore, may vacillate from stimulating student responses through general, ambiguous leads.