Education plays a vital role in allowing you to pursue your dream career of becoming a counselor. However, there are some skills you need to learn outside the classroom that will have a tremendous impact on your ability to work with clients and truly help them.
Let’s walk you through some critical traits you want to build to be ready to help clients.
The Qualities of a Good Counselor
These soft skills and interpersonal skills of a counselor will go a long way in helping them excel in their position. Here are 12 key qualities of a good counselor that you should work to cultivate as a professional:
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Communication skills will play a key role in your relationship with your clients. You need to know how to confidently set boundaries, communicate ideas, and provide guidance to the person before you without harshness or condemnation. Your communication should help patients understand they can trust you to listen and provide expert advice.
Patience will become a critical trait as a counselor. You will encounter clients who struggle to make progress or who make decisions that do not benefit them. As a counselor, you must have the patience to walk them through their struggles so that they can find their way to a healthier life.
Counselors must be confident in the services they provide and how they help clients. When someone comes to you for help with a particular issue, you are there to provide them with clear guidance and assistance. As a professional, you should always look for ways to improve your skills and learn about some of the latest breakthroughs in the field. After all, confidence does not mean knowing everything there is to know. It does mean, however, understanding how to help your clients and coming to each session with a plan and confidence in your understanding.
Counselors also regularly meet with clients who have made choices that they do not agree with. The counseling session, however, is not about letting the client know what they have done wrong. Instead, you want to focus on leading the client towards a future where they feel confident and empowered enough to make positive changes for themselves. If the client feels judged, it can put a major obstacle to the progress you can make together as a counselor and client. Instead, you want to nurture a relationship where the client feels comfortable being open.
Sometimes, as a counselor, you will encounter situations where people might not tell you the entire truth. Your powers of observation, however, can help you fill in the gaps and find ways to better help your clients. Learning how to read body language—such as signs of struggles with substance abuse and indications of domestic abuse—can also provide you with valuable insight into your client. It will help you guide conversations and treatment plans so that you can help them in the most effective way possible.
Knowing how to sit and really listen to what your client has to say can help to establish trust and understanding between you and the client. The patient will feel relaxed and able to share their thoughts, emotions, and experiences. The information you gain as a listener can help you better understand your client and what has brought them to your office, so that you can start to determine their treatment path and how to help them.
Clients who come to your counseling door suffer in some way. Whether they struggle in their relationships with others, have a mental illness, or have a substance misuse problem, for example, your clients have to know that the person they choose to open up to is worthy of their trust. As a counselor, you need to let your client know they can trust you by using good listening skills, creating a welcoming environment, and demonstrating your dedication to helping them. Demonstrating your respect for important principles, such as confidentiality and showing that you prioritize them can also help build this trust.
You also need to focus on showing your clients that you respect them as people. Shame can result in people being more at risk for mental health challenges, such as anxiety or depression. As a counselor, although you might not be able to prevent a person from being embarrassed by their actions, your response to such situations, and demonstrating respect regardless of their mistakes, can help guide them past their shame.
As a counselor, you also need to demonstrate an open and accepting attitude towards your clients. Everyone who comes into your office should know that you are ready to meet them where they are. You understand that they have experienced stress and trauma, but as an effective counselor, you accept them as they are and want to help them heal.
As a counselor, you also need to be well aware of your own struggles. For example, roughly 1 in 7 children experienced some type of abuse or neglect in the past year alone. When dealing with these common sources of trauma, the issues your clients struggle with may also be issues you have intimate experience with, either personally or through someone you are close to. As a counselor, you must have the self-awareness necessary to know how these stories might impact you and how to separate your own experiences so that you do not allow them to impact the care you provide. Many counselors report that their own experiences have encouraged them to enter the field, so know how you can use these experiences to strengthen your own practice, rather than allowing it to become a hindrance.
Appreciating of diversity
You will encounter clients from all walks of life. They will likely come from a variety of different backgrounds culturally, ethnically, and socioeconomically. Differences in gender expression and identification, as well as sexuality, will also come through your door. As a counselor, you must be welcoming of this diversity. Being appreciative of this diversity will help you be open and accepting to each client so you can give them the care they deserve.
Finally, you want to make sure you are empathetic. While boundaries remain important, let your clients know your compassion and empathy for their situation. Demonstrate your dedication to guiding them through their struggles so that they can find their way to a healthier situation.
Preparing for Your Career as a Counselor
As a counselor, you have the chance to change people’s lives, help them navigate the challenges they face, and equip them with the tools they need to move forward. When you work to harness these important traits as a part of your training, you will find that you can greatly increase the effectiveness of your practice and the bond you form with clients.
To help you become the best counselor possible, focus on cultivating these skills while you prepare with a rigorous education like the online master’s in human services counseling or online master’s in clinical mental health counseling at Post University. With online options that help you earn your degree on your schedule, you can prepare to take the next step in your career.
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