The therapeutic triad
In the therapeutic triad, genuineness is an important part of a communication process. The genuine person is one who simply tries to be himself/herself. This person is comfortable with all of his/her interactions, and does not have to adapt or change roles in order to be acceptable to others.
In relation to counselling, Rogers and Traux describe genuineness as follows: “The therapist is what he/she is during the encounter with the client. He/She is without facade. It involves the element of self awareness and is able to communicate his/her feelings appropriately. It means that he/she comes into a direct encounter with his/her client, meeting him/her on a person to person basis. It means that the counsellor is being himself/herself, and not denying himself/herself.”
In short, the basis for the entire therapeutic process is the establishment of a genuine relationship between the counsellor and the client. The degree to which the counsellor can be honest with himself/herself and thus with the client establishes this basis.
Some of the qualities which go to make up genuineness are:
2. Non-Possessive Warmth
This conveys to the client that he/she is worthy of respect and is important to the counsellor - and not ‘just another patient’ in the day’s schedule. Non-possessive warmth also expresses the counsellor’s willingness to ‘be there’ for the client. Raush and Bordin suggest that there are a some critical components involved in communicating non-possessive warmth.
These include the counsellor’s commitment, the counsellor’s effort to understand the client, and spontaneity. The three components indicate that it is the counsellor’s effort to understand the client which communicates respect and warmth, and which is the major tie between the counsellor and the client. A counsellor who communicates non-possessive warmth and understanding has the greatest success in counselling. In the final analysis, it is the client’s experience of non-possessive warmth that really matters.
3. Accurate Empathy
Central to the counselling relationship is the attitude and skill of accurate empathy. Empathy is the ability to see the world through the other’s eyes, or in the words of Traux: ‘sensitivity to current feelings, and the verbal facility to communicate this understanding in a language attuned to the client’s current being.’
Thus, as the counsellor explores with the client previously unexplored areas in the client’s life and relationships, it will be the counsellor’s empathy that overcomes the alienation and isolation which the client experiences.
Accurate communication of empathy is the movement to levels of feeling and experience deeper than those expressed by the client, but which the client can use to understand and accept him/herself.
Empathy involves the counsellor’s ability to experience the feelings and experience of the client, to reflect upon this experience while suspending his/her own judgments and tolerating his/her own anxiety, and to communicating this understanding to the client. Adler recognises this experience of accurate empathy as one of the creative functions in human personality.
It is the manner of the counsellor, not his technique or theory, which communicates accurate empathy and fosters growth. The counsellor can best convey his/her understanding of the client’s situation by being fully human himself/herself - and not just reacting mechanically or just intellectually understanding the client’s problems.
A person is accurately empathetic if he/she can look into the other person’s world through the perspective of the other, and get a feeling for what the other’s world is like, and communicate to the other this understanding in a way that shows the other that the counsellor has picked up his/her feelings and the behaviour and experience underlying these feelings.