Background and Overview
Although it is an important part of the healthcare and social support systems, the counseling process is normally uncertain and ambiguous and can create anxiety and vulnerability for the practitioners. Developing a good understanding of the self encompasses a unique process of both emotional and experiential learning. Counselors achieve a good understanding of their skills, performance, knowledge, as well as any personal factors that are likely to deter their ability to work (Posluns & Gall, 2020). Consequently, this paper aims to elaborate on the process and the importance of professional and self-awareness for sustainable mental health and wellness in the counseling profession.
Analysis of Personal and Professional Awareness
Principles of Professional and Personal Awareness
The professional and personal awareness process in counseling is normally based on the principles of personal development, a wider topic that includes awareness of the self. The aim is to enhance self-awareness, including the factors or problems likely to hinder the performance of the professional in dealing with the clients (Sutton, 2016). The practitioners are the main tool with which clients obtain help, especially those with mental health issues. Consequently, if a counselor does not look at the self, it will be difficult to offer high-quality counseling services. In essence, counselors must accept themselves more fully to allow them to offer the same level of acceptance to the clients.
Developing professional and personal awareness becomes helpful for counselors to achieve awareness of their levels of skills, performance, and knowledge, and any factor likely to deter their ability to deal with clients. At the start of any session, the counselors are likely to face fear, anxiety, and uncertainty. Counselors might be afraid of judgment from others and themselves as well, which demonstrates the need for reflective practice that includes developing personal and professional self-awareness (Sutton, 2016). For example, the counselor might face such questions as did I elicit bad emotions in the client during the session?
The Process of Developing Personal and Professional Awareness
The process of developing personal and professional self-awareness in counseling facilitates positive change and also establishes the professional confidence needed in the long-term counseling profession. Within the process of developing personal and professional self-awareness, practitioners become aware of what is occurring for them, including how they apply knowledge obtained in class, skills, and areas of weaknesses that require additional efforts to improve their performance (Sutton, 2016). Counselors cannot achieve good performance if they are not aware of their personalities, beliefs, emotions, strengths, thoughts, and motivations.
Although there are several approaches or processes through which counselors can apply to achieve professional and personal awareness, the Cycle of Caring process is among the most effective methods (Skovholt & Trotter-Mathison, 2016). Developed in the early 2000s, the Cycle of Caring is a cyclic process with four phases- empathic attachment, active involvement, felt separation, and re-creation.
The empathic attachment phase, the first stage in the cycle, simply seeks to make the practitioner close to the client. The goal of the stage is to make an optimum professional attachment with the client based on the key elements of attaching, bonding, and connecting (Skovholt & Trotter-Mathison, 2016). During this phase, the counselors can review their skills in listening to their clients and determine whether they were overwhelmed. Learning emotional boundaries is a vital skill for counselors at this stage. For example, as a student counselor, I will seek to try as much as possible to repeatedly form an optimal professional attachment with my clients by listening to their stories and assuming to be in their positions while also keeping emotional boundaries.
The second stage, known as the active involvement phase, serves as the main working stage for the counselors. During this stage, the counselor shares a vision with the client and works towards achieving that specific goal. Active listening is the main activity for the counselor to learn about the position or situation that the client faces while also developing a support-challenge balance for change and development (Skovholt & Trotter-Mathison, 2016). For example, in my case, as a counselor, I will not only allow the client to do much of the talking but also ask minimal questions to elicit more information from them. After the session, I will review my questions and the answers provided in the story to learn if I did it right and note my areas of weaknesses for further improvement.
Felt separation is the third stage in the cycle where the counselor should, as the name of the stage suggests, relieve the active emotional burden of the relationship with the client. As Skovholt and Trotter-Mathison (2016) note, the professional loss process appears as a form of the grief process for the practitioner. The idea is to practice termination skills in this stage of the cycle or use caring burnout. In my case, as an example, I will practice an optimal level of client-care versus self-care, where I will start the discussion with the clients after they finish their stories. After the session, I will ensure that I note the areas of weakness and strengths that I noted for future improvement.
The final stage is the re-creation phase that involves taking a break and then returning to the start as the name suggests. Specifically, it involves taking a break for self-care, resting, renovating, restoring, and returning. At this point, I will be very active and fully representing to help my clients (Skovholt & Trotter-Mathison, 2016). I will practice self-care in this phase as a means of restoration to start the cycle once more.
Why the Development of Self-Awareness Fosters Sustainable Mental Health and Wellness
Personal and professional awareness is linked to sustainability in mental health and wellness in the counseling profession. Mental health professionals work with clients from varied cultures, lifestyles, religions, beliefs, languages, and value systems (Sutton, 2016). Effective counseling requires the practitioners to recognize their value systems to respect individuality. Mental health practitioners, through self-awareness, achieve both emotional intelligence and success. With this knowledge, they create achievable goals because they can consider their strengths, weaknesses, and motivations in goal setting (Malkoç & Sünbül, 2020). They use self-knowledge to guide themselves on the right path by pursuing the opportunities that best fit their preferences, skills, and goals. Therefore, they develop a specific method and rational approach for dealing with people with mental issues, thus creating sustainability in their profession.
Developing Personal Awareness as a Mental Health Counselor
I can develop self-awareness as a counselor in the mental health and wellness professionals to improve outcomes and sustainability. I will ensure that before every session, I make a list of questions that guide me when dealing with the client (Sutton, 2016). Some keywords in the session, for instance, will revolve around my listening, intervening, relating with the story, and creating a convenient environment (Sutton, 2016). After the session, I will reflect on my experience and performance and fill in the questions to determine my areas of strength and weaknesses.
This discussion elaborates the process and the importance of professional and self-awareness for sustainable mental health and wellness in the counseling profession. The discussion shows the principles of personal and professional awareness, highlighting the importance of realizing personal weaknesses and strengths for counselors. It also discusses the important steps in the professional and personal awareness process and how I can follow them to improve sustainability as a counselor in the mental health profession.
Malkoç, A., & Sünbül, Z. A. (2020). The Relationship between Emotional Literacy, Cognitive Flexibility and Counseling Self-Efficacy of Senior Students in Psychology and Psychological Counseling and Guidance. Educational Research and Reviews, 15(1), 27-33.
Posluns, K., & Gall, T. L. (2020). Dear mental health practitioners, take care of yourselves: A literature review on self-care. International Journal for the Advancement of Counselling, 42(1), 1-20. Web.
Skovholt, T. M. & Trotter-Mathison (2016). The resilient practitioner: Burnout and compassion fatigue prevention and self-care strategies for the helping professions (3rd ed.). Routledge
Sutton, A. (2016). Measuring the effects of self-awareness: Construction of the self-awareness outcomes questionnaire. Europe’s journal of psychology, 12(4), 645.