Five Counselling Principles

These counselling principles have evolved over my counselling practice, as I have found my way to use the great teachings of the Human Givens. I hope they make sense you.
counselling principles

Counselling Principles to Help you Heal and Empower

“Thank you. I was thinking recently of how to express my thoughts about your approach. Here is what I have come with. It helps to get out of the often very puzzling maze of our lives, back to the state where we, like children, appreciate all without complications, angst, what ifs, etc. It makes all well-tuned, natural, it makes one feel again interested in people, sounds, colours, light. I suspect it puts you on the pass of normality, and happiness comes to us as a natural state.” Alex

Five Principles of Counselling

  1. Keeping it simple

  2. Trusting my instincts

  3. Scepticism of experts

  4. Confidence in Human Givens

  5. Measuring client’s progress

1. Keeping it simple

First, I expect improvement and recovery and my evidence base shows that this expectation is grounded and believable.

Second, I know that all my clients have resources and capacities. They may be hidden but we will find, enhance and heal or redirect them.

Third, goals will be found to activate both my client’s and my problem solving capacity.

Fourth, unhelpful or damaging emotional patterns and arousals from my client’s past will be identified and then resolved and cleared.

Fifth, we will find simple and empowering explanations for the problem that will remove blame from my client’s shoulders – call this normalisation.

2. Trusting my instincts

Our instincts are the feelings and messages, often arising unconsciously that propel an action or judgement on our part. Our instincts are with us all the time and you could say that they are the outcome of our inherited and learnt wisdom or stupidity. They include our subtle past pattern matches which guide us through every inch and moment of our lives.

I don’t like him/her… that seems the right thing for me to do right now…will I buy that shirt or that present…will she like it…etc. etc.
Our instincts will answer these questions for us – well or badly.

This formulation is a lot better than the understandings of many psychologists who typically think of instincts as innate and unchanging. Surely it is much better to think of them as potentially under our control and that they can need to for our emotional health.
In terms of therapy, I have learnt to trust my instincts….such as the instinctive answers to questions such as these:

Is my client reasonably calm or needs to calm down first… is he/she trusting me yet or seems still quite apprehensive… should I launch into explanations early or not…how best can I establish the trust we will need… how directive should I be… what is the driving motive and values of this person and where are the real strengths that we can use… is trance work suitable sooner rather than later or not at all… and when should I throw my plans for how I should work with this client out of the window and go with what seems to be right in that moment?

If you wish to understand more of how we use our instincts, then understand how emotions work.

3. Scepticism of experts

We live in a time of great and growing complexity where basic counselling principles are under threat. The ability to store and use data on a scale undreamt of even twenty years ago has fuelled this. Computer power entices us to believe that all uncertainty and risk can be eliminated, if only we can find that information rich system of control and trust the experts who tell us that they can manage it. This is of course an illusion.

Let me make a confession – before therapy I was a economist working for the government and privately for over thirty years. So I know just how worthless are their forecasts for the economy and how the experts almost destroyed the world financial system and probably still are.

Everywhere we are forgetting the simplicity of trusting ourselves and of what it is to be human.

Mental health is no different from any other field of human endeavour – the experts are in charge of the asylum, telling all who will listen that good counselling/psychotherapy is difficult, that years of training are needed, that supervision and other safeguards are essential and modern medical science has the best answers to all our problems. But do we really believe them? I don’t think so.

Homage to Milton Erickson

Milton Erickson grew up on a farm in the Midwest of America and, being a sickly child learnt how to observe people. He learnt to see what was there – and not what he was told or assumed was there.
And from this he evolved how to be a truly effective therapist who understood and could make a real difference to individuals who needed to and wished to change
Milton Erickson is inspirational, not least in his scepticism of experts.

4. Confidence in Human Givens

Work at all times to get arousal levels down and so be able to help clients to problem solve effectively in order to get their essential emotional needs better met. Yes, that’s it in a nutshell.


5. Measuring client’s progress

I ask each client to evaluate their progress at each session of therapy. I originally began doing this as part of a project to measure the effectiveness of Human Given’s trained therapists. I then realised that my results were a pretty good marketing tool as my “success rate” turned out to be good and as far as I can discover, no other private therapist in any field did anything comparable.

I then began to realise how useful it was for my counselling practice. To get a base line at the beginning – was my client moderately or severely distressed – and to be able to monitor progress at each session and in particular to know when there was little or no improvement. And so we both can know when a change of tack was needed and at the end to remind us both of the progress that has been made.

Over 85% of my clients feel better at the end of their treatment – normally around 4 sessions. 85% plus is a high number and should give you confidence.

At this point, I gratefully acknowledge the inspirational work of Scott Miller. He opened my eyes to the value of keeping outcome measures for all clients. This gives you essential feedback as to the progress or otherwise of your client. Keeping outcome measures also keeps me grounded.

podcasts bnnr

Listen to this
Just 3-4 minutes each

Did you know that of all models of counselling, not one has ever been proven to be best? Listen/download

Did you know that some counsellors are better than others? Listen/download

Good counsellors convey a powerful expectation that their client will get better

Many more podcasts here – depression, case studies, good counselling, wellbeing and psychology

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