Egan's skilled helper model is a 3-stage model that is designed to help people become self-empowered. Very similar to Roger's famous counseling system, the model is client-oriented, refers to the client as individual who leads the process and structures his goals and is used on the context of the recent past and future. The Rogerian guides, too, of empathic listening, unconditional judgment, and respect are its fundamentals.
The Egan model addresses three primary questions
What is going on?
What do I want instead?
How might I get to what I want?
Stage 1: What is going on Each person perceives his or her particular life narrative in her own specific way. Similarly, too, does one accord one's challenges a personal interpretation. Egan encourages the helper to allow the client to articulate his perspective of the account and to fully listen to that account. Articulation of the story frames the narrative and may better allow the client to proceed and see the wider picture.
Used in this part are the skills of active listening, reflecting, summarizing, paraphrasing, open questions, and requesting feedback so as to ensure that the counselor has adequately understood the client. The questions are deliberately slanted in an open manner so as to enable the client to reveal more of himself and to discuss his situation in depth.
In another work (his life development model), this same author (Gerald Egan, 1979) discusses the travails that people may experience at each stage of life particularly adolescent and adult and how the client may effectively help the individual transition by understanding these stages and understanding how the individual functions.
An individual may face challenges and be impeded from progression simply due to the fact that he or she has inadequately or utterly failed to deal with the task for the preceding developmental stage.
Occasionally, powerlessness pervades the lives of many individuals, leading to social demoralization. This is particularly so in the transition from adolescent to young and older adult when the adolescent is full of vibration and optimism with life believing that he can achieve whatsoever and howsoever he wants with his life and then, gradually, discovering that the realities of life including gender, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and norms imposed upon individuals by particular community amongst other factors restrain him from maximizing his potential. Feeling unable to cope effectively, many become overwhelmed by events and, ending up 'socially demoralized', surrender to their powerlessness.
The skilled helper's model is effectively combined with Egan's development model by enabling the individual to reflect on these problems and articulate them from his particular perspective. For instance, David may undergoing a 'boundary zone' between adolescence and young adulthood. A boundary zone is characterized as a transitional period where the individual experiences uncertainty and turbulence. Modification and termination often takes place during these times where feelings may be altered towards others (as, for instance, a young adult's feelings differ towards school and his home then entering adulthood from adolescence) and relationships may be altered or formed. People in transitional periods often engage in existential questioning, as well as experimentation where they experiment with new ways of experiencing and doing things (Egan & Cowan, 1979). Some individuals are bogged down in these issues, disabled from transitioning / moving along, and it is here that the helper by exploring with the client the difficulties that she is facing.
The client's web of interactions (the school, family, larger society) can obfuscate David's vision disabling him from seeing his problem clearly of in a multi-faceted perspective. It is empathy here on the counselor's part -- and reflective listening -- that expands the picture and enables the client to explore and investigate other options.
The helper's skills include using empathizing and reflecting listening to help client challenge blind sport, discover erroneous thinking, make a pattern of his or her narrative, and claim ownership of particular strength and weaknesses of her conduct vis-a-vis her challenge in particular, and of her life's conduct in general. One of the inclusive questions, during this stage, would be if there were any other ways to perceive the situation.
One of the aspects impeding the client from moving forward is the fact that he may often feel stuck in the rut. This is where the helper intervenes, again through the Rogerian skills of paraphrasing, summation, self-reflective listening, and questioning interpretation (tentatively positing an interpretation and presenting it to the client for feedback) of clearing the roadblock. The counseling skills used here are facilitation, focus, and prioritization (or areas to select and work on).
2. Stage 2. What do I want instead
People often see their problem as just that -- an unwanted situation that they have to get through come what may. Egan posits that the situation may be seen as a challenge or, better still, as an opportunity, and that, through particular skills, the helper may help the client see it as thus and generate a more optimistic alternative to the present difficult situation.
In his lifespan model, Egan articulates that some individuals go through the situation of 'diffused identity' in that they are unable to make any sort of commitment, having been unable to find alternatives to many of the commitments that they have relinquished.
Taking this situation and applying it to his skilled helper's model, we can present a hypothetical situation of Mary who, reluctant to accept the responsibilities of adulthood, can resist on remaining in her adolescent stage and thence experiencing problems with finding a job, dealing with friends, and, in other ways, moving on as an independent adult. The helper can help Mary recognize adulthood by helping her brainstorm her ideal situation in which she envisions her idealized life to occur.
The counseling skills included here involve brainstorming, facilitating open-ended, imaginative thinking, and allowing the client to do so at his/her own pace. Once the fantasy has been articulated, the counselor then shows the client how to pinpoint that vision into coherent, permeable form by setting goals. These goals should be achievable, motivating, challenging, yet specifically expressed and encapsulated in a time-form so that the client can achieve them.
Finally, the counselor guides the client in testing the reality and practical implementation of his goals before moving forward in actually implementing them. The skills during this level are facilitating the possibility of implementing the goals; helping the client explore the costs and benefits of implementing the goals; and stimulating the client's motivation to remain committed to his or her goals.
3. Stage 3: How will I get there
This stage considers the practical feasibility of moving from theoretical articulation of ideal to actual implementation of one's goals and to dealing with the problem in a practical manner. At the same time, possible challenges and obstacles to one's objectives are considered and plans made to avert or to thwart them. The counseling skills of facilitation (using the classical modes e.g. unconditional listening, empathy and so forth) are used here, as well as enabling the patient to brainstorm possibilities.
As per illustrative example, Egan (Egan & Cowan, 1979) discusses the situation of a client experiencing a 'psychosocial moratorium' where the client is unable to proceed, still in the mode of questioning her values and exploring her choices. This situation can be used here as example where the helper helps the client do a reality check and lay out potential obstacles as well as ways in which she can surmount them.
Egan sees the individual as acting within a specific set of circumstances. People (P); human system (S); and interactions between people and the systems of their lives and between these system themselves (x) (Egan & Cowan, 1979). An adolescent, for instance, experiencing social-emotional debilitation, may have problems that exceed the self and may be traced back through family to school, perhaps to dynamics of school board or the very nation itself. This individual, in turn, has an impact on others. His lack of family discipline, for instance, may impact the classroom, hence the teacher, and, accordingly the teacher's family and so forth.
At this third stage, Egan's helper is cognizant of the way in which extraneous factors merge with the individual's life and can impede him or her from effectively implementing her goals and moving ahead. The helper points that out to his client so that helper and client select a strategy that is consistent with client's values and lifestyle and is cognizant of the varying impediments that can stand in his way as challenge. A technique called "force field analysis" is used to determine the challenges introduced by extraneous others that can impede the client, and the helper helps the client brainstorm ways in which these factors can be strengthened or weakened.
The counseling skills used here involve helping the client reality check, and guiding him in selecting the best and most optimum approach to conceptualizing and actualizing goals given potential obstructions.
Finally, the client is aided to actualize his plans by distributing them into small, achievable segments of actions. The client is…