Counseling skills can encompass many different aspects of life, and they are of great use to those in social work. Unfortunately, many social workers do not realize just how important these kinds of skills are and therefore do not get the training in them that they really need. Since social workers are not counselors and do not usually see what they do as 'therapy' of any kind, they do not look to counseling as having a place in their work and the families that they often are called upon to help. However, much of what a social worker does for those that need help is actually counseling of a sort, and by learning more about counseling skills those that spend their time in the social work field can utilize what they already know, along with the counseling skills, to help many more individuals and families in new and better ways, which will ultimately be to the benefit of society.
One of the reasons that this is so is that social workers often do many different things, and they do not only work with families who are abusive, or take children from homes and place them in foster care. Social workers have many functions, and they are often counselors and therapists without actually realizing it. The well-being of others and help with their basic needs is what social workers strive for, and they must do this in many different ways if they are to be successful at it. They often have ethical codes and strict rules that they must follow, yet they are also empowered to do a great deal of good for humanity. Some of them even work over the Internet now, in yet another effort to reach out to individuals and give them what help and support they can.
This paper will show how counseling skills can be used in social work, and what social workers can do to take these skills and ensure that as many people as possible are helped. The paper will first define counseling so that there is a clear understanding - albeit in general terms - of what is being discussed in the rest of the paper. Following that, the principles of counseling will be discussed so that they too can be clearly understood.
Next, some examples will be given so that how these counseling skills can be used by social workers can be seen. Situations in which social workers can use counseling skills must be addressed. This will help those who are contemplating teaching these skills to social workers make the decision as to whether these skills will be beneficial in the future, as training anyone to do something different often costs money.
The conclusion will tie together all of these issues and show a cohesiveness between all of the main points that are presented throughout the paper. While not overly long, the conclusion will create a summary of information that will help those who read this information feel as though they have been reminded of all that they have read and the importance of all of it in the lives of social workers and also in the lives of those in the community that they work to help and protect.
Definition of Counseling
When asked for a definition of counseling, there are many different answers depending on the type of person that is asked the question and how much he or she knows about the actual subject. There are those that believe that counselors are therapists, and those that believe that counselors are psychiatrists or psychologists (Hepworth, Rooney, & Larsen, 1994). Others feel that counselors do not really have any specialized training or degrees, and only 'call' themselves counselors - a word that really has nothing to back it up (Hepworth, Rooney, & Larsen, 1994; Marshall & Von Tigerstorm, 1999).
Counseling means so many different things to different people that it is extremely difficult to come up with a definition of counseling that everyone will agree on (Hepworth, Rooney, & Larsen, 1994). This is true not only of those who call themselves counselors but also true of their patients as well (Hepworth, Rooney, & Larsen, 1994). Because of this, there is no official definition of counseling that appears to be used by all who work in the field. This makes a definition and an understanding of counseling somewhat difficult but not impossible for those that are not used to discussing the issue (Hepworth, Rooney, & Larsen, 1994). The purpose here is to give only a simplistic definition that does not include every possible instance that could be considered counseling.
In order to do this there would have to be much more space available to discuss all of the ways that counseling is thought of and all of the definitions that have been provided for it as it has developed. Instead, a simple definition of counseling will be provided here. This will be one that can be used as a general overview of what counseling actually is instead of attempting to encompass everything that counseling can be. That is not to say that many of these other issues that are considered counseling are not important, but only that they are not necessary for purposes of this particular document.
However, in general terms, counseling is the giving of advice, help, and support to those who request it, by those who are specially trained to do so (Hepworth, Rooney, & Larsen, 1994). This is a relatively simple definition, and there are many variations on that theme where counseling is discussed (Hepworth, Rooney, & Larsen, 1994). It would take far too much time to list all of the possible definitions of counseling or all of the things that it means to everyone that is asked about it (Hepworth, Rooney, & Larsen, 1994). For the purposes of this paper, the simple definition will be sufficient.
Principles of Counseling
There are several principles that are important to understand in counseling, and they will be discussed here. The first principle is that the counselor must be open to hearing what the client is really saying (Glancy, Regehr, & Bryant, 1998). A counselor that is not a good listener will not be helpful to the clients that need and want advice (Glancy, Regehr, & Bryant, 1998). The counselor must not put his or her own ideas or opinions into what the client is saying, but actually listen to the thoughts and feelings that are coming from the client (Glancy, Regehr, & Bryant, 1998). It is often hard to look at someone else's ideas objectively, but counselors must put their own feelings about the client aside to counsel them properly (Glancy, Regehr, & Bryant, 1998). This is one of the most difficult things that they have to do (Glancy, Regehr, & Bryant, 1998).
Another important principle of counseling is that the counselor must be able to use metaphor and simile to explain the feelings that the client is having and the problems that the client is dealing with (Glancy, Regehr, & Bryant, 1998). Repeating back to the client what he or she has just said, but saying it in a different way, is an important skill (Glancy, Regehr, & Bryant, 1998). This is done to ensure that the client has clearly understood what the client is trying to say, but also to help the client see their problems in a somewhat different light so that they can have a better understanding of the problems that they face and how they might best deal with them (Glancy, Regehr, & Bryant, 1998).
When considering various principles that are used in counseling it is also important to understand that counselors must be the kind of people that are willing to give up their necessity to be correct about something all of the time (Glancy, Regehr, & Bryant, 1998). Many people always feel that they have to be right in what they say and do, and counselors must accept the fact that this is not always possible (Glancy, Regehr, & Bryant, 1998). This is often very difficult, but someone who is not capable of admitting that he or she was wrong will not be able to effectively help a client (Glancy, Regehr, & Bryant, 1998).
Much of this is due to the fact that being able to help someone involves seeing that person's point-of-view and understanding it for what it is (Glancy, Regehr, & Bryant, 1998). When someone feels that they must be right all of the time they are not able to look at the point-of-view of the other person because that would make the other person right (Glancy, Regehr, & Bryant, 1998). When counselors are able to get around this they will be much more effective in treating their patients (Glancy, Regehr, & Bryant, 1998).
Perhaps one of the most important things to be considered when looking at what makes a good counselor is to remember to be where the client is at (Glancy, Regehr,…