Various counseling practices allow individuals to identify, cope with, and manage areas of self-improvement and to address physical, mental, and emotional needs. The reasons why individuals seek counseling range from romantic relationship issues, adjustments to chronic illness, spiritual concerns, grief, to career choices, stress, addiction, and adjusting to the effects of trauma. In the counselor-client relationship, the counselor aims to listen to and question the client to establish how the client understands, to clarify thoughts, provide new perspective to the situation, and generate approaches to the problem (Rowland, 1993, p. 18-19). One effective model that structures the counseling theory within the counselor-client relationship is Egan's 3-Stage Skilled Helper model. Egan's model offers a framework to help individuals discover solutions to their problems and develop new opportunities. Egan's Skilled Helper model is comprised of three stages, in which each stage involves three sub-stages. Clients and guided through the stages and sub-stages by the counselor to manage problems and to equip themselves with problems solving strategies in their everyday lives (Forrest). In the following hypothetical exploration, Egan's 3-Stage Skilled Helper model will be applied to assist a client with work-related problems. Problems in the workplace are common as people often suffer from job related stress, failed communication, and lack of personal and emotional fulfillment (Pazaratz, & Morton, 2001).
The foundation of Egan's Skilled Helper model identifies the stages of counseling as an exploration of what the client is currently experiencing, gaining new understanding of the circumstances, and taking action to achieve goals (Rowland, 1993, p. 20). The Counseling Department at Birmingham City University distills Egan's model into three questions (Forrest):
What is going on?
What do I want instead?
How might I get to what I want?
These three questions are translated into three stages and a total of nine sub-stages. The model is designed to allow the client to study their circumstances, consider new approaches, and to make logical action decisions. Egan's Skilled Helper ideal provides and emphasizes empowering the client to evaluate their circumstances and exploit new possibilities to manage their problems more effectively (Forrest).
Stage One of Egan's 3-Stage Skilled model is the "Current Scenario" or exploration stage. The first sub-stage of Stage One is to identify the client's story. This involves questioning their perspective to understand what is happening in their life and to establish their concerns. The second sub-stage within understanding the current scenario involves inquiring into blind spots, consider new perspectives, or to establish what is the reality of what is happening. The third sub-stage of the current scenario includes focusing and prioritizing needs and wants (Wosket, 2006).
Stage Two of Egan's 3-Stage model is the assessment of the "Preferred Scenario" or the new understanding. The first sub-stage within Stage Two is to identify the possibilities of the circumstance, and for the client to determine what they really want in the situation. The counselor helps the client to recognize specific themes, inconsistencies, and behavior patterns. The second sub-stage of the preferred scenario involves reality testing the client's ideals and molding the client's agenda to establish goals (Wosket, 2006). The third sub-stage involves commitment, and to verify that the established goals are accurate.
Stage Three of Egan's model includes the "Action Strategies." The first sub-stage of Stage Three is the discovering of possible actions, and to determine the different avenues possible to achieve the goals outlined in Stage Two. The second sub-stage is eliminating strategies that the client feels will not work, and to clarify the best approach to reaching new goals. The third sub-stage requires planning and following a course of action (Wosket, 2006). The client is expected to determine costs and consequences, to plan action, and implement the necessary actions. The compilation of the three stages empowers the client to explore their feelings, needs, wants, investigate and chart how to implement necessary alterations, and act on their needs to achieve change (Rowland, 1993, p. 21). Egan's model describes counseling theory and practice and guides the client to achieve valued outcomes.
The hypothetical client presenting in this case is struggling with problems in the workplace. This client works for a small nonprofit organization and is one of six total employees. She is single, twenty-seven years old, and has worked for the organization for three years. Her job title is Director of Communications, which covers a variety of tasks from payroll, accounts payable, managing social media, fielding general email questions, and maintaining the organization's website. She is one of four full-time employees, and there are an additional two part-time employees in the office. She is the youngest in the office, and the only one who has never been married nor has children.
Utilizing Stage One of Egan's 3-Stage Skilled Helper model, this client would first be prompted to explain "What's going on?" Providing the client with a safe place for her to tell her story in her own way, and acknowledging she is heard are two key components to making sure she feels secure (Crago, 2000). During the first sub-stage, this helper would employ active listening skills to validate core conditions and ask open-ended questions to promote their perspective (Forrest). The first sub-stage involves the expansion of the client's perspective to better understand the full scope of the situation. Asking questions such as "What else is there about that?" And "What were you thinking and feeling?" allowed this client to expand on her scenario. She explained that in the workplace, out of the three additional full-time employees, one employee devotes more than their fair share to the office, the other in unreliable and takes frequent personal days or leaves early, and the last employee is the boss, the Executive Director, who is frequently absent, provides no office encouragement, and has very little follow-through. The client expressed feelings of zero accountability in the workplace. The client also stated she is never "thanked" in the office, and her boss never acknowledges the tremendous amount of work she does. She feels her boss does not act like a boss at all.
Transitioning into sub-stage two of Stage One includes questioning blind spots, and challenging the client to view other perspectives or anything she has overlooked. Since the client is in the situation it can be difficult for them to see the scenario from different points-of-view, and this helper would ask the following questions to assist the client: "How do others see it? See you?"; "What would he/she say about this?"; "What about all of this is a problem for you?"; "Any other way of looking at it?" (Forrest). This client admitted to "shutting-down" while at the office by not asking for help from her co-workers, and will not include them when a problem arises. The client stated she does not trust her co-workers to do their work, let alone hers. After asking some open-ended questions about viewing the co-worker's perspective, she realized her co-workers would not be able to know what she is thinking or feeling, or that she needs help with something because she never tells them. Her co-workers might see her as guarded, and hard to approach. The client also stated she can get annoyed with her co-workers and impatient when they have to work together or when they ask her questions. She feels co-workers can come and go as they please, including the boss, while she puts in so much time in the office (as well as one other co-worker) but neither of them are ever acknowledged for it, and this has caused her to feel resentment.
The last sub-stage of Stage One in Egan's model is focusing on moving forward and prioritizing what is most important to the client. This stage aids the client in transitioning from the "I'm stuck" feeling and towards harnessing energy to move forward. To facilitate the client towards focusing their priorities, this helper asked such questions as: "What in all of this is the most important?"; "What would be best to work on now?"; "What do you consider to be manageable?"; What would make the most difference?" (Forrest). After considering the relationships with each of her co-workers, the client feels the best place to start is the relationship with her boss. The client expressed that this is the most critical area, is appropriate, manageable, and is the best place to begin if she wants to see results. The client feels that if her boss is made aware of her feelings and she can inquire into his perspective, that it could nurture change in the workplace and create an atmosphere of better understanding. The client explains that working on the relationships with her other co-workers would be also beneficial, but would not make the most difference to meet her needs.
After expanding the client's story, inquiring into different perspectives, and prioritizing her needs, the client is ready to move into Stage Two of Egan's Skilled Helper model. This stage allows the client to explore her preferred scenario and question "What do I want instead?" (Forrest).…