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Counseling Style: It’s not just Theory

Updated: Aug 5, 2021

Counseling style; a term used to describe how a therapist interacts with their clients in order to facilitate change. If you are just starting out as a therapist (like myself) you may have ran into the debate of:

I align with this theory so I should try and do more of that theory but the more I try I feel less like myself.

Aligning with a theory is one thing (theoretical orientation) but counseling style is taking your counseling skills of attending, theoretical knowledge, and human development knowledge and blending it with your own personality. Sounds like a simple concept huh? The process of blending takes more effort and self-awareness than it may seem.

The most effective way to develop your counseling style is by regularly analyzing recordings of yourself in practice or real life sessions so that you can discuss them with a supervisor. The conversation that takes place between you and your supervisor is where a lot of your learning will come from other than through self-assessment.

Self-assessment of one’s interest in and motivation for receiving supervision is a logical first step in preparing for the supervision experience. Given that supervised counseling experience is required to obtain a degree and license, formal supervision is essentially a mandated, involuntary requirement. MHC practicum students need to ask themselves the degree to which they consider supervision to be an opportunity for learning, an inconvenience, a restriction, or an imposition (Pearson, 2004).

When thinking about this self-assessment it is important to consider what characteristics are considered to be required to be an effective therapist. Pearson (2004) lists what supervisors’ rated as being the most important student attributes:

  • demonstrates willingness to grow;

  • takes responsibility for consequences of own behavior;

  • actively participates in supervision sessions;

  • demonstrates respect and appreciation for individual differences;

  • and demonstrates understanding of own personal dynamics as they relate to therapy and supervision