Consultant Studies the Tools that Will be Needed when Working with Future Students
Learning about counseling therapies has given me a greater understanding about the ways in which to connect with & understand people. Learning about therapies has also given a name to the things I’ve done as a teacher as as given me new strategies in my educator toolbox. strategies I hope to use in the future to connect with and help my future students. In general I find myself drawn towards working with high school students as a future school counselor. I think my desire to work with older students comes from wanting to help students like myself. In high school I feel as though I fell through the cracks and didn’t get the help I needed. As a future counselor I want to work to not let kids go unnoticed, and unseen, to give a voice and advocate for those students who are unable to ask for help.
There are many challenges however, that come with working with high school students. High school years are full of growth, promise, excitement, frustration, disappointment and hope. It is the time when students begin to discover what the future holds for them. High school students are on a transition towards adulthood, postsecondary education, and the workforce. High school students are in a stage of trying to understand who they are, what they do well, their strengths and weaknesses, and how all of those factors could determine their future. Additionally, during these years students tend to separate from their parents and are most influenced by their peer groups. They are searching for a place to belong and rely on peer acceptance and feedback. As a result of this they face increased pressures regarding risk behaviors such as drug and alcohol use, and sexual activity. Today’s teenagers are also highly influenced by social media and the effects of rapid access to information via technology. The rapid availability of information, use of informal texting as the main form of communication, and addiction to validation from social media can lead to many problems for teenagers.
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One of the main ideas from person-centered therapy is that of the actualizing tendency. This is a natural human inclination striving towards achieving one’s goals of autonomy, fulfilment, realization, and self-determination. Another similar key idea is that therapists can create a growth promoting climate by being genuine and real, accepting, and caring, towards a client. Moreover, if a therapist can develop a deep sense of empathy and understanding for their client, that it can help clients reach their true potential. (Corey, 2017) person centered therapy doesn’t set specific goals with clients, and the therapist is essentially a facilitator for helping a client understand themselves. This may come in the form of talk therapy. Personally, I have responded well to this type of therapy. For someone who has felt judged and different for a lot of their life, going into a therapy space that is safe, judgement free, and accepting was very helpful for me. My therapist was able to create a space where we could talk about anything without it being about me being wrong, or how we were going to fix it. the goal is to connect with a client to help them become the best version of themselves.
Honestly anyone in the education field could benefit from understanding person-centered therapy. Especially when educators work with so many types of people. Learning from this approach could help educators to find ways to connect with challenging, struggling students instead of making assumptions about the reasons for their challenging or unpredictable behavior. A specific example of when I would use person centered therapy as a school counselor…
One key feature of Adlerian therapy theory is assessment. During assessment the therapist will ask questions that will allow the client to speak about his/her personal history. This includes family history, early memories, and overall feelings, beliefs, and motives. This helps to reveal the the clients lifestyle patterns, including factors that might initially be thought of as insignificant or irrelevant by the client that could be further discussed. Adlerian therapy uses talk therapy dialogue to develop positive client attitudes in the areas of confidence, self-worth, and how to develop productive and positive relationships.
The overall goal of this therapy is to remove self destructive beliefs and behaviors and to replace them with tools that will empower their clients. Adlerian therapy focuses on each client as a unique person, taking into consideration his/her choices that have shaped their life. The therapist’s goal centers around empowering clients to understand their actions, and to take responsibility for them, but to use that understanding to help them make decisions that will lead to a future they want to achieve. I have personally found that talking through past events, and personal history has revealed a lot about myself. I’ve talked through things that I didn’t think were significant, but which actually triggered a lot of unresolved issues. I’ve also had experience discussing family history, and early childhood memories and learned a lot about how my current beliefs have been formed by those past experiences.
As a counselor, It would be helpful to get a full understanding of a student, and their background, depending on what the are seeing you for. It’s very insightful to learn how someone’s personal beliefs are formed, and then to try and find ways to adapt those beliefs to serve them positively in the present. Additionally it’s always smart to do goal setting with students, this can help you understand where they want to be academically, socially and emotionally, as well as professionally. Having those goals can help target your work together and affect positive change in a students life.
Behavior therapy’s focus is on helping a client to change maladaptive behaviors. The key is addressing learned problem behaviors that are currently having a negative effect on a person’s life. Therapists will focus on directly observable behavior and create concrete goals with a client to make observable behavior changes. Clients are an active participant in the actions taken to help solve unwanted behavior. Clients will often have contracts and homework assignments to complete outside of therapy. Behavior therapy wants to address a client’s behaviors in the here and now. Therapists will also look at a client’s environment for possible factors causing problems.
This is a very practical approach to therapy and can often be rewarding for clients who can stick to behavior modifications. However, this type of therapy doesn’t often address the feelings or underlying issues that can go along with problem behaviors. Moreover, it may not provide a client insight into the origin or past events that could trigger this behavior in the future. Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is very much a product of Behavior Therapy. It is based on many of the same approaches and will use the same techniques. The focus of CBT is that clients have faulty thinking which can lead to emotional and behavioral problems. Cognitions are the things that affect how one acts and feels. Therefore, cognitions will affect your relationship with behavior, and if they are maladaptive in some way, can lead to unhealthy thinking, emotions, and actions. During CBT therapy clients undergo a learning process in which they acquire new skills.
Clients can then practice these skills to gain healthy coping techniques. These skills can lead to a client being able to seek out and minimize faulty thinking. There is a good amount of focus on the internal dialogue, automatic thoughts, and faulty assumptions that can occur for a client, and ways to modify those thinking habits by identifying inner strengths instead. From my own experience in therapy, I have done a lot of work on discussing my internal dialogue, negative assumptions, and automatic thoughts. For me I have been working with my therapist to recognize and celebrate moments when I am not self-critical, or moments when I don’t beat myself up for doing something that I probably didn’t know how to do in the first place. My automatic inner dialogue can be very critical, so through therapy I have learned to be aware of it, catch it, and then get curious as to why those thoughts/feelings are coming up. It is often interesting to examine what triggers those thoughts, and the actions that go along with them. Self-monitoring and awareness are big parts of therapy for me, and with the help of my therapist I am learning to deconstruct those moments and change my thinking habits.
As a future school counselor, I can see the benefit of having specific measurable strategies/interventions to help students. I think people in general like having a plan of action to fix things, even if they are more challenging things like problem behaviors. It makes logical sense to deconstruct what is going on in a student’s present situation, to examine their environment, relationships, etc. and to devise strategies and interventions to work through those issues. Also, as counselors, it’s important to be able to have records, and verifiable evidence of helping students. Moreover, if a counselor has interventions that work for students, they could be repeatable to help other students.
“Narrative therapy is a form of counseling that views people as separate from their problems. This allows clients to get some distance from the issue to see how it might actually be helping them, or protecting them, more than it is hurting them. With this new perspective, individuals feel more empowered to make changes in their thought patterns and behavior and “rewrite” their life story for a future that reflects who they are, what they are capable of, and what their purpose is, separate from their problems.” (Narrative therapy, 2018) “Narrative therapy was developed by Michael White and David Epston, two New Zealand-based therapists, who believed it was important to see people as separate from their problems.
Developed in the 1980s, narrative therapy is an empowering approach to counseling that is non-blaming in nature because White and Epston felt it was important for clients to not see themselves as ‘broken’ or ‘the problem,’ and moreover for clients to know that they were not powerless to these problems or behavior patterns.” (Clarke, 2018) “According to White (1992), individuals construct the meaning of life in interpretive stories, which are then treated as “truth” because of the power of dominant culture narratives, individuals, tend to internalize the message from these dominant discourses, which often work against the life opportunity of the individual” (Corey, 2017, p 382)
Narrative therapy was developed with three main components in mind. First, people participating in narrative therapy are treated with respect and supported for the bravery it takes to work through personal challenges. Second, there is no blame placed on clients as they work through their stories. Focus is placed on recognizing and changing unhealthy thoughts and behaviors. Third, narrative therapists are not viewed as an authority, but rather a collaborative partner in helping clients grow and heal. Clients know themselves and exploring their problems through talk therapy allows for a change in their thoughts and behaviors. In narrative therapy, there is often a solution focus that involves talking through a current problem in a client’s life. A therapist or counselor listens to a client’s or student’s problem-saturated story with an open mind, to guide them to more positive thoughts and feelings, while not adding judgement, diagnosis, blame, or affirming problematic thoughts and feelings. In narrative therapy, the therapist works in collaboration with the client.
A therapist is there to listen intently and openly to a client’s stories, and uses probing questions to facilitate exploration into those stories. This allows the client and therapist to get to the root of a problem and to help a client find resources they currently have to help solve their problems. The overall goal is to assist clients in separating themselves from the stories they have created, so that they can free up space to develop and create new life stories. Moreover, through the client therapist relationship, a client can build new language and meanings for problematic thoughts, feelings and behaviors that have troubled them. Narrative therapists are essentially helping their clients gain a broader view of something by facilitating a perspective change. On a personal note, I know how effective it can be to have a therapist help you step back from a problem to help you gain a different perspective. My therapist is also very good at pointing out my strengths as I discuss or describe a problem, and that too has helped me to see problem behaviors or thoughts in a different way as I learn to reshape and redefine my own stories and how they affect my worldview.
Overall, narrative therapy is a useful tool for school counselors. It’s a very accessible model of therapy that could work with almost any age student. It also allows people to work through an issue on their own with minimal guidance and therefore, can leave students feeling as though they achieved a big goal by tackling their own problems. My therapist often calls this slaying a dragon, by bringing it out into the light, and taking away its power. The ability to not feel chained to one’s problems is very healing. This therapy is also a good reminder to counselors to listen with an open mind, and to help students not place blame on any one thing or person, which can alleviate the anxiety that comes along with student’s thinking that they are the root of the problem. Personally, I have often felt like I was the root of the issue when challenging things occurred. However, my therapist has helped me to remove myself from challenging situations and to see them from a different perspective. In doing so, I’m able to understand my part in the struggle, but more importantly, see the roles that others played in the situation as well, and that the events that occurred were bigger than anything I could have done to cause the problem.
As a school counselor, it is very important to help students see the value in themselves, especially if they feel like they are struggling with a problem or behavior. Having someone point out a positive behavior in what one perceives to be negative can be very enlightening. My therapist has done this for me and it has absolutely helped me reshape my thinking about specific behaviors and feelings, and I know using this technique would serve school counselors well too. “Clients are often stuck in a pattern of living a problem-saturated story that does not work. When a client has a limited perception of his or her capabilities due to being saturated in problem thinking, it’s the job of the therapist to elicit other strength-related stories to modify the client’s perception.” (Corey, 2017, p 385) Moreover, what person wouldn’t want to be in control of rewriting their own stories or creating a story that helps them be more successful? In that sense, it’s a very empowering therapy that allows students to take control of their lives and futures. As Corey (2017) explains, a narrative therapist supplies the perspective, optimism, and occasionally a process for change, but the client generates what they want to change and what’s possible, and then works towards actualizing it.
The one therapy that I would not use as a future school counselor is Feminist Therapy. The reason for this is because it is limiting in its application to a wide variety of students. Feminist therapy developed out of criticism for traditional therapy, because of their nature to be gender biased. Feminist Therapy aims to be gender fair, flexible, promoting meaningful interactions, and is lifespan oriented. The overall goal is to raise awareness of gender stereotypes and break the cycle of thinking in gender normative ways.
It recognizes that a client’s issues can arise from cultural, societal, and political factors as well. Therapist who practice this have a commitment to social change, and work to validate, and value women’s voices, and experiences. It’s a form of self-empowerment therapy, that helps clients claim their power, and voice by freeing themselves from gender norm limitations. Feminist Therapists will often educate clients on the way society views gender, and how those preconceived ideas affect the ways we can see ourselves. The goal is to challenge established beliefs and begin to reform ideas of oneself without the limits, oppression, or biases associated with gender. The major criticism associated with Feminist Therapy is that it has an inherent bias towards serving white, middle class, heterosexual women.
For it to be truly effective it would need to be modified to be inclusive to all male, female, non-gendered clients. Additionally, feminist therapy may allow a therapist to force a set of values on a client, if the relationship is not a mutual collaborative one. A client may feel overwhelmed by what a therapist is asking them to discuss, or goals that the therapist wants them to achieve.In my opinion a strictly Feminist approach to therapy seems overwhelming, and unbalanced. I think clients need to understand the importance of both masculine and feminine qualities in their lives and can use therapy as a window to understand how their gender affects them.
What I do appreciate about feminist therapy is that it is striving to bring awareness to a client about social or emotional issues they may be feeling, especially if that client is struggling with finding their place in a complicated world. I know that my therapist and I have discussed social norms, and why they are the way they are, and how those views can skew one’s own perception. These perceptions and can feed into a negative self-image. Awareness is a huge relief for me, understanding the why or how of my own behaviors gives me a sense of peace. Knowing that I’m not just “crazy” so to speak, and that there are real logical, explanations for behavior. From this perspective I absolutely think it’s important to raise awareness of societal and cultural norms and how we individually need to tackle those stereotypes to make personal changes, or advocate for political and social change. As a school counselor in today’s changing diverse times, I think understanding feminist therapy is important.