The 4 stages of the counseling process: what every youth counselor should know

There is a natural development that takes place within the context of the helping relationship. This process allows you and the person you work with to build a relationship, assess the situation, set goals, and come up with a plan to achieve the desired results. This progression is known as the counseling process. The counseling process consists of four stages. These are: developing a relationship, making an informed assessment, establishing mutually agreed goals and objectives and developing an implementation plan.

Phase 1. Develop a relationship

In order to develop positive helping relationships with young people, you need to be able to get in touch with them. This can only happen if the youth feel that you genuinely care about their well-being and understand where they come from. The point is to behave in a way that shows the core conditions of authenticity, respect and empathy.

To build solid relationships with young people, you need to create a safe environment in which young people feel comfortable opening up to you and talking to you about everything they are doing. You also need to help young people understand that they have strengths despite their circumstances. In short, you have to start things from a strength-oriented perspective.

Questions to consider when trying

Develop a relationship

In what ways can you build better relationships with youth in your program?

· If there are young people who are not actively involved, what else can you do to get them involved?

If a young person is resistant, what steps can you take to reduce the resistance?

What worked in resistant youth in the past?

How do you know if you have built a solid relationship with a youth? Can you use these indicators to strengthen your relationships with other young people?

Phase 2. Make an informed assessment

An informed assessment takes place when both you and the youth collect information to find out what is “really” going on, so you can assess what needs to be done next to change the situation for the better or the youth’s coping skills to better deal with a problematic situation. The first step in making an assessment is to find out if change is needed and what needs to be done for change to happen. Once you’ve determined that change is needed, the next step is to figure out what needs to change. Is it a behavior? An attitude? A situation?

A good assessment can give a young person an opportunity to see how his / her behavior or attitude can contribute to an unwanted or unhealthy situation. Assessment is an ongoing process. You should check with your youth regularly to see how things are going. Reassessments can help ensure that you and the youth are on the right track.

How do you collect information to make an informed assessment? You can gather information in a number of ways: talking to young people, observing young people’s behavior and interactions, discussions with other people involved in the young person’s life, and reading documented information about the young person. Keep in mind that if you use someone else’s oral or written report as a source of background information, you risk subjecting yourself to their prejudices and assumptions.

Points to consider when making an assessment

· Be aware of your prejudices and how they affect the assessments you make.

· Involve young people in the assessment process.

Do not rely on a single source to make an assessment, gather as much information as possible from different sources.

Do not automatically label a behavior as dysfunctional because you don’t understand it, or it will not affect your culture.

· Make sure to point out a young person’s strengths even when addressing problematic behaviors.

Phase 3. Establish mutually agreed goals and objectives

Why is it important to establish “mutually agreed” goals and objectives? Because if a young person agrees with the goals, he / she will follow them sooner. If a young person is actively involved in goal setting and agrees with the goals, he / she is more likely to take the goals. What are goals? Goals are broad statements that indicate what you want to achieve. Think of goals as the end result you are trying to achieve. While goals are broad statements that indicate what you want to achieve in general, goals are the measurable steps you take to achieve your goals. For example, if you have a goal that says, “youth will be better able to manage their anger.” One of your goals could be: “young people will recognize emotional triggers that lead to angry outbursts and use positive, self-talk to calm themselves.” Your objectives must always be concrete and measurable. They must also be derived from the general purpose.

Questions to consider when developing

Goals and objectives

What do you and the youngster want to achieve?

How are you going to achieve that?

When do you want to achieve your goal?

What obstacles do you expect?

How will you tackle these obstacles?

How will you measure and monitor progress?

Are your goals realistic?

Phase 4. Implementation plan

The implementation plan is a plan that you and the young people work on together. It is designed to prevent, intervene or address unhealthy behaviors and practices. The implementation plan indicates who will carry out the activities, where the activities will take place, how often they will take place, how they will be carried out and when they will be carried out. Deployment activities are designed to help individuals rethink risky behaviors, solve problematic problems, address unhealthy lifestyle practices, learn new skills, and build strengths. Implementation activities can include counseling, crisis intervention, training and education, support services, concrete services and constructive use of free time.

As you can see, each stage of the counseling process builds on the first. As you progress through each stage, you will realize that it takes patience and practice to effectively guide young people, but if you are committed to the goal, you will do just fine. You may not be confident in your abilities as a counselor, but as you expand your knowledge base, gain more experience, and strengthen your help skills, you will become a more effective counselor.

Copyright © 2006 by Cassandra Mack

Extract from the book by Cassandra Mack: ‘Smart movements that successful youth workers make’

Source by Cassandra Mack