I tend to prefer eclectic counseling above all other modalities, generally scripting my practice towards particular individuals and directing my approach towards his or her personality. That is as it should be. Nonetheless, I myself have certain preferences and these are in order of rank: behaviorism (not excluding mentalism); most aspects of Rogerian counseling; a barely-known approach called 'focusing; and the essence of Beck's (1999) approach (not rational emotive therapy which I consider subjective and ethnocentric as well as time-bound).
The aspect that I like about behaviorism is its practical quality. Studies (e.g. Feldman & Kokinov, 2009) have shown that emotional regurgitation (or emoting) is detrimental to a person's peace of mind and diverts them from dealing with the problem. Life, it seems to me, is absorbed with 'doing'; rather than' being', and my observations of successful and content people shows that, oftentimes, the most emotionally and mentally happy and well-functioning, as simply those who, realizing that there is a problem, proceed in untangling it by actively and courageously resolving it. The fundaments of behaviorism are eminently simple, make sense, and, best of all, to me are empirical. Whilst recognizing that rats and pigeons are in a different domain than humans and, accordingly, skeptical of research-applied form one to the other, I realize the inordinate impact that environment has on a human and the ramifications of stimuli and results on humans. To that extent, Bandura's insight in modeling is applicable too.
Roger's non-directed counseling serves as a guideline, too. Whilst questioning the stance of any counselor as being totally non-directive and the ability of any humans to be non-judgmental, I appreciate his techniques of active listening, empathy, and basic counseling strategies. They serve as the tools for pulling the counseling session along.
"Focusing," created by Gendlin (1978) and a product of persistent research in the university of Chicago in the last '50s, was a method that I stumbled on by mistake but has been of tremendous help to myself in helping me deal with my stress and bludgeoning deep down to the root of a problem. I still use it today, more on self-help than on others. Essentially, it involves the act of reflection / meditation where I am one-on-one with my sensation, feeling it without criticizing it, and tehn pondering the feeling asking myself why I am feeling that way. Reflection on the feeling, gradually, leads me -- not necessarily to solutions -- but to a greater understanding of reasons for the feeling and a greater acceptance of the sensation. It clarifies matters that often leads me to adept a helpful solution instead of rejecting the feelings as disturbing or, abruptly formulating harmful solutions.
As per Beck's cognitive approach, my method is simply to challenge (or help client challenge) the root of his or her thought using a logical (and, sometimes pure logical approach reinforced by visual models) of the inaccuracy and/or improbability of the scenario ever taking effect, or techniques that client can use to achieve his or her desires.
What are your strengths and weaknesses as a counselor
Perhaps my most necessary strengths is the fact that I realize that I have weaknesses and that I am willing to work on them. Whether I actually succeed and persist in working on them is another matters, since there is a huge gap between realization of one's weaknesses and persistence and resolution in working on them. I am resolute, but I often lack the resistance, and, then again, there may be blind sports hidden to me as per the insight of the Johari Window.
There are times when I am more resolute than others in working on my weaknesses. These generally come when comparison to others highlights my inadequacies. However, when I am smug or feel myself to operating in top-mode, I generally wallow in self-congratulation and am more prone to preferring a light fiction book or movie as entertainment than to crack open some journal of research.
This is another one of my weaknesses: I find keeping up with research to be uphill work and difficult for myself to retain as habit. On the other hand, counselors have to be in constant pursuit of self-improvement, and I have a persistent desire to improve myself -- although whether I actually persist is a different question. To that end, I posses expert self-knowledge of my behavior and my thoughts, but occasionally surrender to likes and dislikes instead of practicing self-discipline. This may be a problem in various areas of my life
Other counseling requirements also include active listening and complete attention to the client. Admittedly, I have more of a challenge in these regards since my mind is often racing and I am trying to remember 'important' things that I have to tell her (the client) before I forget. I am, therefore, apt to interrupt and, later, rue the act of doing so.
I also find empathy a challenge seeing the other more as an I-IT than as an I-Thou, aware of the fact that we each have our particular experiences and ways of interpreting life and phenomena. I have tremendous curiosity of people and their lives -- a plus - but find that I can only gain empathy (and animation) when my experiences happen to converge with hers.
To greater benefit to myself, however, I am by nature non-judgmental and this is a huge thing in counseling
What biases or predispositions do you hold regarding working with certain groups of people?
I have a natural curiosity to all kinds of people and, therefore, have no problem in working with others who are different to me, although my opinion is that that different cultures are generally (although not always) best understood and best matched by people from that same culture and community.
Having been brought up in a strict religious community, I find myself having stray discomfort towards homosexuals/lesbians or anything that deviates from the strict moral sexual approach prescribed by the Bible. These are sediments of my youth that I recognize and that, therefore, make me feel that I may not be the right person to counsel these individuals. On the other hand, I have no problem with addicts or criminals of any sort or color, and, in fact, find them fascinating individuals and often inspirational.
Another problem I have too is with fundamentalists of any stripe, be they religious or atheistic. These are often the hardest people to work with since ether believe that God or God in the shape of science or some other Dogmatic Creed speaks to them and has appointed them on some glory mission. I am impatient with their dogmatisms and frustrated by their attitude. As open individual, I find such people hard to take and realize I may not be the best person for them either. These are my main limitations.
In what ways have you attempted to expose yourself to or become open to experiences, values and beliefs that are different to your own
I have not traveled much. Perhaps, the brunt of my exposure to different ways of thinking has come about through media and documentaries of different races / ways of thinking, which I actively seek out intent on understanding the other. To the same reasons, I am a great perusor of memories / biographies of a swath of personality types / backgrounds / races particularly drifting to those I feel uncomfortable with (e.g. prostitutes, Satanists, or cannibals) in order to understand them better.
I also have a tendency of asking direct questions of anyone whose experience differs from mine in an attempt to understand them better.
On the other hand, I find myself actively avoiding people whom I consider obnoxiously militant and animistic in their beliefs towards others. Debate with them is useless (I find). It may help thoguh if I attempt to understand them better.
What have you discovered about yourself as you have examined your personal values, beliefs, and behaviors that can influence your ability to help others
I find that I discover anthropological / sociological / ethnomethodological memoirs and biographies / case studies to be enormously helpful since they plunge me into the weltanschauung of the other and help me contrast different ways of life given me the transcendental approach that is so necessary of counseling.
I have also found how much truly listening to the other injects a different atmosphere in the room and can, actually, make me feel happy as well. Silence is not the menace that I thought it was. Truly listening involves playing a detective game with the other listening to what she says to see whether she can tell me anything new and whether I can learn anything more about her personality to cue in why she acts a certain way. Also to hear what she intends to convey by what she is trying to tell me (namely what her underlying message is).
Recently, I have also discovered that the stronger I am in myself and in…