A counselor can assume different roles during their career, as well as create different kinds of relationships with their client. A counselor utilizes empathy to create connections with their clients to help them resolve a crisis, while also collaborating with other workers to create new and effective techniques and programs.
The term empathy comes from the Greek word empatheia, meaning to perceive the subjective experience of another. Empathy can be considered one of the essential aspects of the counseling relationship. The empathetic counselor senses the feelings of the client as if they were their own, but without losing themselves in those feelings. Becoming aware of the feelings client helps get a better grasp and communicate to them a perspective on experiences unfamiliar to the client (Clark, 2014).
Two types of empathy can be identified: primary and advanced accurate empathy. Primary empathy is described by the counselor’s ability to understand the main issues and concerns stated by the client. Advanced accurate empathy tries to analyze and reflect feelings outside of those verbally stated by the client. This type of empathy can help the client express feelings that are not being expressed on the surface. The main difference between them is that primary empathy relies mostly on the information and emotions openly provided by the client (Clark, 2014).
Multiple barriers can arise during the process of developing empathy. Empathy can be seen as pity or sympathy by the patient, which might cause them to reject it. It is important to make a clear distinction between these three feelings. A patient could be blaming themselves for their problems and refuse to accept empathy because they feel like they do not deserve it. In this case, it would be important to help the client accept themselves to let them accept empathy. Clients might also be afraid to show vulnerability because empathy could elicit a very emotional response which they are not ready to experience. Sometimes people are just afraid to cry, and it is important to show that they can do it without judgment (Clark, 2014).
Dynamic Interaction during a Crisis
Dynamic interaction during a crisis consists of three main components: worker, client and the ecological-cultural determinants. A worker in this interaction is the counselor who works with the client to resolve the crisis of the client. The client is the patient who is experiencing a crisis. Finally, the ecological-cultural determinants are aspects of the cultural and physical environment of the client that have an effect on his ability to resolve the crisis or might be its cause. Crisis workers should be sensitive to various cultural norms and behaviors while working with clients with an unfamiliar cultural background. Clients may have a different definition of the problem that the counselor has not considered before. Understanding of the ecological-cultural determinants helps counselors create better connections with clients during a crisis (Kanel, 2014).
Collaborative Efforts and Consultations
A counselor might find themselves participating in many collaborative efforts, most of which would be collaborative consultations. These consultations provide an interactive process for people with different expertise to create original solutions to mutual problems. The outcome of this process is likely to be more effective than a solution those same people would provide individually. The collaborative consultation process is used to create effective and clear teaching programs for students with special needs that would be most appropriate for them. Creation of such programs provides handicapped students with constructive interaction with their non-handicapped peers (Dougherty, 2013).
Empathy is very important for the counselor as a way to understand the client and may require some additional cultural knowledge to create an effective connection, although sometimes work with other colleagues might be more effective at providing solutions to difficult problems.
Clark, A. (2014). Empathy in Counseling and Psychotherapy. Hoboken, NJ: Taylor and Francis.
Dougherty, M. (2013). Psychological consultation and collaboration in school and community settings (6th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.
Kanel, K. (2014). A guide to crisis intervention (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.