This blog will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of a counselor. Readers will first learn about the strengths in detail. Then, we will describe the weaknesses and how they impact therapy. Finally, we’ll briefly talk about how the weaknesses can be taken care of.
What are Counselor Strengths & Weaknesses?
The strengths of a counselor include the following:
- Attending & Listening
- Updated Knowledge
- Taking Feedback
The weaknesses are as follows:
- Loss of Objectivity
- Issues with Boundaries
- Potential to be Triggerred
- Compassion Fatigue
What are the Strengths of a Counselor?
Counselling is a skill that requires certified training and education. This is especially true when we’re talking about counselling for mental health issues. Since this service deals with helping people improve their lives and achieve well-being, it’s important that counselors have certain qualities.
In this section, we will talk about the strengths of a qualified counselor. Let’s begin!
Attending & Listening
Counselors are trained listeners who have been taught how to make absolute strangers feel comfortable enough to confide in them. Every case requires the counselor to put in a good amount of effort into rapport formation.
This requires them to be attuned to the client, pay attention to their verbal and non-verbal communication, and to listen without judgement. They are able to put aside their personal beliefs and opinions and treat each client with respect and dignity.
It isn’t easy to resist the urge to talk but counselors are trained to do so to ensure the client can speak freely without being interrupted. This strength of counselors helps build trust in the therapeutic relationship.
Empathy is when the counselor expresses regard and respect for the client’s experiences, feelings, and thoughts. It is different from sympathy because it’s not like the counselor feels sorry for them. Instead, they are able to put themselves in the client’s shoes and validate their perspective.
This requires a genuine interest in other people, which most professionals entering the field of counseling possess. Through empathy, the counselor allows the client to feel heard, understood, and respected.
Typically, counselors use various techniques to express empathy. A few examples are summarising, paraphrasing, asking appropriate questions, and pointing out the client’s strength and resilience.
A good counselor knows that their learning can never be complete. They must keep themselves updated with the latest research as the field of psychology is still evolving. As the body of knowledge keeps growing, counselors need to adapt themselves to the latest theories of human behaviour.
In the past, mental health professionals categorised non-hetero sexual orientations as a mental disorder. Today, it is seen as a spectrum that celebrates human diversity. It is considered perfectly normal. Rather, counselors acknowledge that members of the LGBTQ community are more vulnerable to mental health issues.
Counselors are expected to continue their education throughout their careers as this is vital if they want to provide their clients with a scientifically-informed perspective of their issues.
In a 2015 paper, Scott D Miller and his associates showed how taking the client’s feedback after every session is imperative for effective treatment. So much that it matters more than any other measurement or monitoring of behaviour.
By taking the client’s feedback, counselors learn how to optimise their method and tweak it for each individual seeking help from them. Session feedback forms also give the client enough space to assert their needs and preferences. This helps in tailoring the therapy sessions to their unique requirements.
It is indeed a strength for counselors to be able to invite and accept criticism. Taking feedback is an excellent way to make the client feel empowered and to deliver the treatment that really works.
What are the Weaknesses of a Counselor?
Now that we’ve discussed the strengths of counselors, let’s take a look at the weaknesses. It’s important to keep in mind that despite their skills and training, counselors are still human beings. They can and probably will make mistakes.
So, let’s describe what these mistakes or weaknesses can look like.
Loss of Objectivity
This is something that can happen if the client’s experience is very similar to the counselor’s past. When this happens, the counselor might overidentify with the client and start to lose objectivity.
They might start to notice only what’s similar between them and the client and fail to pick up on dissimilarities. As a result, they might misdiagnose or project their own feelings onto the situation.
It becomes an issue because the client may not agree with how the counselor thinks so this could impact their relationship.
Issues with Boundaries
Another thing that might happen if the counselor overidentifies with the client is the temptation to speak when it’s not appropriate. When the client speaks about an experience that’s very similar to what the counselor went through, they might feel like disclosing their own stories.
Sometimes, this helps the client feel understood and open up more. But it can also go the other way. If the client does not appreciate the disclosure, it can become a problem.
Moreover, despite taking feedback, many clients struggle to openly criticise their counselor because of past trauma. So, even if they feel the counselor over-shares or loses sight of professional boundaries sometimes, they may fail to assert their feelings.
Potential to be Triggerred
Finally, the third weakness that comes up when the client’s story is similar to the counselor’s is when the latter gets triggered. For example, the client may talk about an addiction, a traumatic incident, or an insecurity that the counselor has also been through.
Or, if the counselor has dealt with mental health issues as well, something that happens in the counseling sessions may induce a relapse. Consequently, the counselor may struggle with their psychological well-being.
Obviously, this impacts their ability to counsel effectively. They may need to take a hiatus from their services or refer the client to someone else. This can be a big inconvenience for the client.
The last weakness that we will discuss in this blog is compassion fatigue. According to the American Institute of Stress, compassion fatigue is “the emotional residue or strain of exposure to working with those suffering from consequences of traumatic events.”
If the counselor has a history of treating many clients suffering from trauma and they are not taking enough precautionary measures for self-care, they might feel this strain.
It causes them to lose interest in their cases and be unable to feel empathy. Again, this affects their functionality as professionals and they may either retire, take a sabbatical, or continue to work ineffectively. Unfortunately, each of these interrupt the client’s recovery.
Nevertheless, though these are the weaknesses of a counselor, they do not necessarily make the counselling process ineffective. Instead, they only reflect that counselors are not machines but human beings.
Furthermore, these weaknesses only delay the process of counselling if dealt with appropriately. In no way do they prevent clients from getting the help they need.
This blog discussed the strengths and weaknesses of a counselor. Readers first learned about the strengths in detail. Then, we described the weaknesses and how they impact therapy. Finally, we briefly talked about how the weaknesses can be taken care of.
The strengths of a counselor include Attending & Listening, Empathy, Updated Knowledge, and Taking Feedback. The weaknesses are Loss of Objectivity, Issues with Boundaries, Potential to be Triggerred, and Compassion Fatigue.
FAQs (Counselor Strengths & Weaknesses)
What makes an effective counselor?
An effective counsellor will have the following qualities:
- Good listening skills
- A genuine interest in others
- Ability to build trust in the therapeutic relationship
- Continued learning
What questions should I ask a new Counsellor?
You can ask absolutely anything to a counsellor which will make you feel more relaxed and comfortable in your sessions. Nevertheless, here are some useful questions that can help make the counselling process less challenging for you:
- “What approach do you use in your counselling sessions?”
- “Have you ever dealt with a client with problems similar to mine?”
- “Why did you choose to become a counsellor?”
- “Is it okay if I don’t reveal that right now?”
What are the 5 Counselling skills?
There are many skills and micro-skills involved in counselling so they can’t be limited to a number as small as five. Having said that, here are some essential skills that are required of anyone practising counselling as a profession:
- Establishing rapport
- Active listening
- The use of appropriate questions
- Refraining from making judgemental comments or body language