Professional Counselors are licensed mental health therapists who provide assessment, diagnosis and counseling to people facing a variety of life stresses and psychological problems. They help people with relationship issues, family problems, job stress, mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety, and many other challenging problems that can impact feelings of well-being and happiness. To be effective in their roles, counselors should enjoy helping others and possess specific attributes and skills.
1. Effective Communication Skills
Counselors should have excellent communication skills. Although some of these skills can be honed during graduate school and are developed and refined over the course of your career, you should already possess certain communication skills before embarking on a counseling career. Counselors need to have a natural ability to listen and be able clearly explain their ideas and thoughts to others.
Being nonjudgmental and accepting are important attributes in any of the helping professions. But professional counselors must be able to “start where the client is at.” This phrase is often used in counseling to describe the ability to relate to clients with an open, nonjudgmental attitude — accepting the client for who she is and in her current situation. Counselors need to be able to convey acceptance to their clients with warmth and understanding.
Counselors help people through some of the most difficult and stressful times of their lives. They must be able to display empathy – the ability to feel what another person is feeling. Empathy means that you are truly able to imagine what it’s like to stand in someone else’s shoes. Compassion and empathy help your clients feel understood and heard.
4. Problem-Solving Skills
It is not up to a counselor to solve her clients’ problems, no matter how much she might want to help. But counselors must have excellent problem-solving skills to be able to help their clients identify and make changes from negative thought patterns and other harmful behaviors that might be contributing to their issues, says Dr. Lynn Ponton in an article for PsychCentral.
5. Rapport-Building Skills
Counselors must possess a strong set of interpersonal skills to help establish rapport quickly with clients and develop strong relationships. They must give their undivided attention to clients and be able to cultivate trust. Counselors need to be able to place all of their focus on what their clients are saying and avoid being distracted by their own personal problems or concerns when they are in a session.
Flexibility in counseling is defined as the ability to adapt and change the way you respond to meet your clients’ needs. You do not stay rigid and stick to a predetermined treatment path when your clients require a different approach. Being flexible is one of the most important attributes of a professional counselor, says Gerald Juhnke, professor of counseling at the University of Texas at San Antonio, in an interview with “Counseling Today.”
Self-awareness is the ability to look within and identify your own unmet psychological needs and desires, such as a need for intimacy or the desire to be professionally competent. This ability prevents your issues from affecting or conflicting with those of your clients. Self-awareness has a major impact on a counselor’s effectiveness, says Professor David Hutchinson in his book, “The Essential Counselor.”
8. Multicultural Competency
Counselors help people from all walks of life. They must display multicultural competency and adopt a multicultural worldview, says Hutchinson. Multicultural competency means that you try to relate to and understand your clients regardless of their race, ethnicity, religious or political beliefs or socioeconomic background.
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