006 – Counselling Assignments – Conditions of Worth – Skill of Focusing – Measuring Self-Development

006 – Counselling Assignments – Conditions of Worth – Skill of Focusing – Measuring Self-Development

subscribe_itunes button small

In the sixth episode of the Counselling Tutor Podcast, Ken Kelly and Rory Lees-Oakes provide some tips on counselling assignments. ‘Theory with Rory’ looks at conditions of worth, and then Ken explains the skill of focusing. The episode ends with a discussion on ways we can measure our own self-development as student counsellors during our training.

Counselling Assignments

The most common reason for an assignment to be referred is that the student has not answered the question that has been asked. Even an eloquently written answer of the right length will not pass if it does not meet the relevant criterion. When writing an assignment, it is important to look at the detailed instructions; also vital is to reference properly all the works you have cited.

Try not to leave writing an assignment until the last minute. Stress is not helpful; you will probably produce a much better product if you give yourself time to prepare and plan – and approach the task in a relaxed state of mind.

With over ten years’ experience as a counselling lecturer and trainer, Rory has written a book that can help you, ‘Getting Your Assignment in Order’. This is packed with helpful information for anyone on a counselling course.


Conditions of Worth

Rory explains Carl Rogers’ concept of conditions of worth, and gives us some real-life examples to illustrate this.

Based on the idea of conditional love, conditions of worth are the messages we take on board about what we have to do to be valued by other people. They are based on introjected values – that is, the values that we adopt from those around us, to enable us to gain their approval. Conditions of worth can be very subtle – and so extremely powerful, as they may not be obvious to us.

Ask yourself how you would complete the following: ‘If I am to be of value, I must …’ Maybe some of these endings look familiar to you:

  • … work hard
  • … please others
  • … not cry
  • … not get angry
  • … not show any weakness
  • … be quiet
  • … do as I am told.

All these reflect conditions of worth. They put pressure on us to behave in particular ways, even when contrary to how we feel. Thus, they lead to incongruence.

The process of clients leaving behind conditions of worth and beginning to operate as their real selves includes moving away from facades, away from ‘oughts’ and ‘shoulds’, and away from pleasing others. As receiving the core conditions enables them to identify and reject conditions of worth that are unhelpful, they move towards self-direction, openness to experience, a greater trust in self, and a greater respect for and understanding of others.

The Skill of Focusing

The term ‘focusing’ in counselling is sometimes misunderstood. It does not refer to concentrating more or paying closer attention. (There is also a psychotherapeutic technique known as ‘focusing’, which is based on the work of Eugene Gendlin, one of Rogers’ students; again, this is not what we are talking about here.) Instead, we are referring to the skill of inviting the client to look more deeply at some material that they have brought.

For example, a client may stay in their ‘story’ – the narrative of what happened. By reflecting or paraphrasing a feeling, the counsellor not only acknowledges the client’s emotion but also invites them to focus on this, drilling down into it so they can explore it more fully. Focusing can also be useful in highlighting a shift in the client’s process, as expressed in the client’s words in the counselling room.

You will hear live examples of the skill of focusing used in a simulated skills session, so you can see its effect on the counselling process.

Measuring Self-Development

How do trainees measure their own self-awareness throughout their training? It seems logical to measure from where we started the journey of self-discovery.

The process of personal change can affect your relationships with those around you, as you renegotiate these. Changes can be large and sudden – lightbulb moments – or come more as ‘moments of movement’ (as Rogers called them). The latter are tiny changes that are nonetheless very important, and together bring about significant growth.

The Johari window is an excellent exercise to measure personal development. To fill in the third (bottom-left) quadrant of the window, it is useful to ask a peer: ‘How do you experience me?’ You do not have to accept their response, but this can often provide valuable food for thought.

Another useful technique is to look at Rogers’ seven stages of process: where do you see yourself, and where does a peer see you as being? To what extent do the two views match?

Links and Resources

Counselling Tutor Facebook group