Self-aware counselors are not only more effective, they build rapport with clients quickly and easily. Here’s what I learned about increasing self-awareness as a counselor, from a session in my alcohol and drug recovery program.
“You can tell how emotionally secure you are by how long it takes to feel 10 years old when you go home and visit your parents.” – unknown.
That’s what an addictions counselor told me today in our self-awareness class – she learned it from her counseling professor. The more self-aware you are, the longer it’ll take to feel 10 when you’re with mom and dad – or when you’re counseling a client who triggers you.
Increasing Your Self-Awareness as a Counselor
Awareness. Do you recognize your personality traits, strengths, limitations, likes, dislikes, motivations, emotions, values, and the impact of your verbal and nonverbal communication skills? Do you know when you’re stressed or under pressure? Becoming aware of yourself spiritually, emotionally, physically, mentally, and socially will help increase your self-awareness as a counselor. For instance, I’m aware that my fear of not being a good-enough counselor will probably affect how I interact with clients.
Anxiety. With self-awareness comes fear and trepidation. As you become more aware of how you as a counselor affect your clients, you may become anxious. I know I am! I’m anxious about saying and doing the “wrong” things in a counseling session. I don’t want to miss important clues, or follow a trail in the wrong direction because I’m scared to take risks with my clients.
Appreciation. Make a conscious decision to live in the moment and choose gratitude. Be grateful for how far you’ve come as a counselor, how much you’ve learned, how your experiences have shaped you, and what your current situation is teaching you. I appreciate so much about the opportunity to get my MSW and do a counseling practicum placement in an alcohol and drug recovery program! I’m anxious about what the future holds, but increasing my self-awareness as a counselor helps me live in the present moment and trust God that things are unfolding as they should (even my counseling sessions!).
Acceptance. As your self-awareness increases, you’ll learn your strengths and limitations as a counselor. For instance, I can’t ever see myself counseling parents or children – or even families. I want to work with adults. Right now, I’m really enjoying working with men in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. To be an effective counselors, we need to accept ourselves for who we are.
Acquisition. What skills do you need to develop, in order to improve your counseling skills? Perhaps a workshop on dealing with shame in counseling, or counseling people in poverty. Maybe you want to go back to school, and get a PhD in Psychology or Social Work. Maybe you need to embark on a year or so of counseling yourself, or work on your spiritual relationship with God or a Higher Power. One of the most important steps to increasing self-awareness as a counselor is to figure out how to get where you want to go.
Action. You know all about this step – you’ve probably counseled your clients on the value of taking action! For me, taking action means getting as much one-to-one counseling experience as I can, so I can overcome my feelings of inadequacy and fear. I also need to get supportive, healthy supervision from experience professional counselors so I can hone my skills.
Self-awareness helps us identify gaps in our skills, assists with decision making, and helps us manage stress. It gives us a more accurate sense of who we are as counselors, so we can better help our clients.