Self Critique on Existential Counseling

Now that I am getting into the “practice” of therapy methods, I can observe my counseling application techniques from the inside out.  I think I did fairly well, but am by no means a professional.  This assignment made me realize the depth, breadth, and width needed by a counselor to successfully direct someone else’s current therapeutic experience.  The results of my counseling attempt, in my opinion, have been fairly consistent with a successful outcome for the client to recover from their initial problems to seek counseling.  But that does not mean that my session with the client has put an end to the future necessity for counseling.  Some of my most obvious disadvantages in this first attempt are related to philosophical and organizational misunderstandings.  I will briefly go over these topics as I address my strong and weak points within the counseling assessment stages of the existential paradigm.

Of the many methods I tried to deliver in this module as a counselor, one of the most pertinent would be: Did I deliver the philosophical message of existentialism through my client questioning?  First, the core philosophical root to Existentialism posits that “individual existence, the act of being, defines a person’s essence, so that existence precedes essence” whereas Aristotelian and Scholastic sense states that “existence is the individual state of being that gives expression to the universal essence shared by all people” (Brennan p. 341).  In other words, did my questions focus on the individual essence and not the universal force of nature?  Moreover, did my existential philosophical message convey that “analysis begins with the concrete and specific experience of a single human being existing at a particular moment in time and space?” (Funder 1997, 289).  I think the basic understanding of the Existential philosophy did come across in my role-playing session.

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Of the ten best minutes in my counseling session, I could not choose a consecutive ten minute time interval. Therefore, I must step outside the instructions to best analyze my honest effort to “self-critique” my own work. As the time interval block between the 7:00 and 17:00 time period was important, so was the time period at30:00 and 1:00 minute.  These additional minutes outside the ten minute block contain what I consider to be essential and necessary foundations to building successful “counselor” methods according to the above mentioned philosophy of Existential therapy.  Therefore, I have included the extra minutes in my assessment.  However, not all of these minutes show my best side of being a counselor and obviously there is a need for more training and education in the field on my part, which I will discuss later.

The section starting with the question at the 30:00 minute mark, “Do you think it is because of fear and anxiety?” I think hit the mark according to Preposition #5 on page 17 *****(put in your Reference here-not in files you sent me)***and page 43 of Alison Strasser’s article in reference to anxiety.  In asking this type of question to “S” I was trying to get him to use the definition of Existential anxiety to overcome his feelings of “meaninglessness” by inquiring, “What is social acceptance for you, What does it mean to you?” (7:00 minute mark).  My chain of logic would be a direct reference to the “givens of existence” (p.17-***again put in proper citation as It was not included in what you sent me****) as experienced by his feelings of abandonment in relation to his adopted background and his real mother.  Even more important, I was making the integrated connection that received the whole spectrum of his counseling problem by bringing into awareness the fact that reality is gone the moment you think about it.  In other words, Existential therapy relies heavily on realizing that reality never is, but how it only appears to be.  Thus, ‘S’ needs to his present anxiety (which is fueled partially from his past connection to meaninglessness) to overcome his neurotic past of abandonment by focusing on current anxiety as a means to move forward.

Another good example of my questions began at the 17:00 minute mark of the session.  Here, I tried to get the client to examine the now, or present tense, of his life.  In addition, I tried to get the client thinking about what is important to whom he is in relation to who are around him in his life today.  First I asked, “Can you explain to me what your core belief’s are?”  Second, I wanted to know how he thought his extended family viewed him, and how he thought he fit into his current family so I asked, “Ok, You mentioned before about family being your primary value…..who you are?”  The advantage of gathering this information was to constructively build a framework that would neutralize his neurotic anxiety and bring him to a point of realization in the “now” that anxiety can be controlled and may actually be healthy when distributed properly.  The unspoken message here is to bring out the existence of the therapeutic philosophy that over takes the essence that “S” seems to be surrounded by in his compulsion to find something that is gone forever.  “S” needs to make his current family the more concentrated focus of his attention, rather than looking for something that may never be found.  At the 21:00 and 22:00 minute interval “S” does acknowledged that his current family situation is very important to him.  The end result of this questioning should hopefully help “S” look forward to the future while living in the present and limiting the pasts influence on building neurotic thinking tendencies.

The unattractive part of my session seemed to be pointed towards my inexperience to ask questions that were specific enough to get the response I needed from my client to build a cumulatively successful therapeutic treatment program.  I need to consistently ask questions that connect the whole long term therapy of my client together and not just focus on the session for that day.  Furthermore, I need to learn how to ask proper questions that do not lead to double barreled meanings, open-ended answers and lengthy convoluted ramblings that confuse the client more than anything.  These types of questions may be drawing the wrong answers from the client.  For example, I asked “S,” “What concerns, specifically do you have?” (1:00), when I already asked him “What would you like to talk about today.”  Also, just because I used the word “specifically” in my phrasing does not mean he is giving me the most specific “troublesome” factor of his life!  He may have encountered a bad experience that day which is absolutely meaningless to the structure of his long-term therapy and want to waste time talking about it.  A more appropriate line of questioning must have in mind that, “the basic principle of (therapy) is to keep the language simple and direct.  Avoid negatives and questions that address more than one attitude or issue” (Sadava & McCreary P. 38).  Other examples of my suspect questioning occur at the time intervals of 8:00 and 13:00.  The result of my lengthy double barreled questions consistently leads my client to answer with guesses, ambiguities and confusion.  I will learn from my mistakes.

Overall, I think I did a respectable job in my first session as a counselor. One of the things I will try and expand on is building a true synthesis of integrating numerous theories of psychology with the actual practice of delivering those therapies.  The Existential paradigm relies on this perspective of integration in its philosophy.  In addition, I will take more time to set up the proper line of in-depth questions for my clients now that I know how involved and interactive real therapy is. In the end, my self-critique opened my eyes to the admiral fact that my clients state of mind, and possibly their life, is literally contingent on how good of a therapist I am.  I plan on becoming a very good therapist, my clients depend on it.