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Essay/Term paper: "to be or not to be therapeutic"

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Psychology

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In Jacquelyn Small"s book "Becoming Naturally Therapeutic: A Return to the True Essence of Helping," I explored what it takes to be a genuinely helpful counselor. Although I do not intend to pursue a career in counseling, her book touches on various topics that may be used by all individuals. Small provides her readers with a check-list of characteristic ranging from empathy to respect to self-actualization that are virtually essential to becoming therapeutic.
The book begins by stating that "ordinary people" offer better therapeutic help than professionals. In a sense, this fact was surprising because you would think that trained professional would be better equipped to counsel people. However, there are a various reasons why the previous statement should not be shocking. For example, I can understand why an individual seeking help would be more reluctant to visit a licensed counselor. For starters, the general public has a preconception that going to therapy is like admitting that you"re "insane." They also fear being analyzed. Therefore, people are more inclined to request the aid of a close friend because it is less intimidating. In addition, when your share with your peers they respond in a "normal" manner rather than in a theoretical fashion. By this I refer to the use of all those theories and disorders that one learns in psychology courses.
Next, Small discusses how we can fall into the habit of letting our own feelings interfere with the patients" problem. This can create all sorts of complication and the results can be far more damaging that the problem itself. "Toxic relating" is proper term used to describe the confusion between the helper and the patient. In this situation, we often assume the role of preacher, judge, teacher, or savior. "Preachers" use a moralist approach in which he/she becomes overly concerned with right and wrong. "Judges" are less moralistic and more logical. They sound confident in their knowledge. "Teachers" lean toward the tendency to want to properly train their patients in order to prevent repetition of the problem. "Saviors" feel the need to quickly fix everything. They also need to feel as if they are needed. Despite all the roles, we can only be therapeutic listeners if the other person is being natural and sincere and safe in our hands.
Small considers the human Heart to be the only place where truth can be found. It is referred to as "the portal or gateway to a higher reality, a more extended state of consciousness" (16). Counseling from the heart is crucial because it requires us to dismiss all our personal issues and simply be there for the other person. Only then will the individual be willing and ready to offer real help. Furthermore, listening from the heart enables us to speak and accept the truth. Therapy is described as an art rather than a skill. Aside from the usage of our heart, there are ten characteristics that add to the effectiveness of being a therapeutic person. The characteristics are empathy, genuineness, respect, self-disclosure, warmth, immediacy, concreteness, confrontation, potency, and self-actualization.
Small describes empathy as listening to the speaker, envisioning what they are undergoing, and share you perceptions without being authoritative. Genuineness refers to being ourselves and having both our outer words and inner feelings match. The belief that all humans are equal and are the creators of their own destiny underlies the meaning or respect. Self-disclosure is sharing our own feelings and experiences in an attempt to help the other person. All humanistic non-verbal actions such as smiles, embraces, and evening shedding tears are indictors of the true essence of warmth. Immediacy describes how therapists keep their patient in the here and now. The emphasis shifts from the content of the problem to the process occurring in that exact moment. Concreteness requires that communication be specific in the whats, whens, wheres, and hows of the concerns at hand. Confrontation is the method used to bring people face-to-face with reality when there is a denial by the patient. People who are in command of themselves are described as being potent. Therefore, potency is used to access whether or not the individual is truly seeking help. Self-actualization in its extent determines the depth of the individual"s involvement in the growth process. Nevertheless, it is not just a trait or characteristic but a description of the person as a whole and it encompasses the other nine characteristics. Since potency and self-actualization can not be taught in a classroom, it is life that teaches us how to become more potent and self-actualizing individuals.
It was after reading Small"s book and learning about the distinct characteristics that I realized my own personal flaws. Like I mentioned earlier, I do not intend to become a counselor. However, when I completed and reviewed my first interview I came to the conclusion that I was not listening from the heart. Instead, I was trying to assume the role of an "expert" and as the individual was speaking my mind was running through all the theories I had learned in my previous courses. Throughout the interview I continued to ask questions that would help me come up with some sort of diagnosis. I can honesty say that I even sounded cold at times which may have caused the individual to cease all conversation. Now that I have learned different techniques for being a therapeutic listener, I intend to incorporate them in my future interviews.
Jacquelyn Small"s book taught me that as long as I follow my natural listening skills and always listen from my heart everything else would fall into place.
 

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